Groups rally for "Clean Slate Laws" at Capitol

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- Having a criminal record, even an old one, makes it a lot tougher to find a place to live or work.

And getting that record expunged in Michigan can cost thousands of dollars.

That's why activists are fighting for a change.

They call them the "Clean Slate Laws" and on Wednesday the group gathered at the Capitol to educate lawmakers about why they are needed. Advocates say criminal records are like barriers preventing them from the American Dream.

"When I got out of prison, I had a master's degree and I had worked for 20 years in higher education and when I got out, I couldn't get a job bussing tables," Joshua Hoe of Nation Outside said.

Advocates and people who have served time say that by "wiping the slate clean" communities, families, and people will benefit by being given more opportunities. The Clean Slate Michigan aims to make the process automatic and open to more people by having them pay a fee after the approval of a prosecutor.

"If you can't convince a person who is incarcerated that there is a future for them, then you're going to have a really hard time getting them to move away from what they've done in the past. They have to believe there is something to move towards," Hoe said.

The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce represents many local businesses.

"We lean on our employers to kind of decide for themselves and we're certainly going to lean on our elected officials to make the best choices for our residents and the community and just make sure public safety is a top concern as well," Marketing and Communications Vice President Eric Dimoff said.

But advocates are pushing for change now. They say even after they're out of jail, they still feel like they're serving a life sentence.

"Its bigger than just right or wrong. If you have paid your debt to society, you should be allowed to rehabilitate yourself and start over anew without having the stigma of a dirty felony over you head for the rest of your life," Ed Genesis of Michigan United added.

The group says certain offenses such as life offenses and criminal sexual conduct are not eligible for expungement. Law enforcement would also still be able to see criminal records.

The expungement process in Michigan requires a background check, getting fingerprinted, paying a fee and more. Most ex-cons will have to hire a lawyer to get them through it. The state only allows people with no more than one felony and two misdemeanors to apply.