Cost, Red Tape Blamed for Low Rate of MI Expungement

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Photo by Esther S. via Flickr

Few of the people who are intended beneficiaries of Michigan’s expungement law actually obtain this relief, according to a new report by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center (CCRC).

Authors Sonja B. Starr and J.J. Prescott— professors at Michigan Law School—argue that few people have their criminal records removed because either they don’t apply for it or because their applications for expungement are not approved.

Using a data-sharing agreement with multiple Michigan state agencies, Starr and Prescott completed a statewide analysis of expungement of criminal convictions in Michigan over the course of decades.

They also noted there may be a lack of information about the availability of expungement.

Other reasons include:

  • administrative hassle and time constraints;
  • cost (including court filing fees, lost wages, and transportation costs);
  • distrust and fear of the criminal justice system;
  • lack of access to counsel; and
  • insufficient motivation to remove conviction.

Moreover, authors found that just 6.5 percent of those eligible for expungement successfully complete Michigan’s application process within five years of eligibility.

But when they do receive expungement, receipts see a “sharp upturn” in wage and employment: wages go up on average by 25 percent within two years, driven mostly by unemployed people finding jobs and very minimally employed people finding steadier or higher-paying work, the study said.

“Expungement is valuable in economic terms for those who receive this relief, and improvements in their economic status will in turn benefit their families and communities,” they argued.

They also found that those who benefit from expungement present no particular threat to public safety, whether because recipients of expungement are self-selected criminal justice success, because the courts that grant them relief take their likelihood of reoffending into account, or because expungement itself does not tend to increase recidivism risk (and in fact may reduce it).

Read the full report here.

This summary was prepared by senior TCR staff writer Megan Hadley.

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