A Second Chance after Successful Criminal Rehabilitation
On Wednesday, the Missouri House approved SB 588 (a proposal to reform criminal expungement policy in Missouri), and the Senate subsequently sent the bill to Governor Jay Nixon.
As I have written before (here), Missouri’s criminal expungement laws are due for an upgrade.
SB 588 would increase the availability and affordability of criminal expungement applications for certain low-level and nonviolent felony and misdemeanor offenses. Allowing criminal expungement in specific cases will help those who have paid their debt to society and demonstrated successful rehabilitation to move past their mistakes and become productive citizens.
The “ban the box” movement is a related effort, in this case intended to increase economic opportunity for past offenders by eliminating questions concerning criminal records on applications for employment. Following the lead of 21 other states, last month Missouri Governor Nixon “banned the box” on state employment applications with Executive Order 16-04, by requiring that state employment applications not ask about criminal records until the later stages of the hiring process.
The criminal expungement reforms within SB 588 would allow many more low-level offenders to re-assimilate themselves into society by opening up job opportunities beyond government employment. Instead of waiting the two decades required for qualified (nonviolent) felony offenses and the one decade for qualified misdemeanor offenses, rehabilitated nonviolent felony offenders could apply for expungement after five years from the completed sentence; for misdemeanor offenses, the waiting period would only be three years.
SB 588 would contribute to the restorative and rehabilitative functions of Missouri’s justice system. Increasing access to higher-quality jobs should greatly improve the economic prospects of nonviolent past offenders, thereby reducing the chance of recidivism as well.