At least 26 states already allow some felonies to be expunged.
Lahny Silva, who teaches at Indiana University’s law school in Indianapolis, has done extensive research on expungement of criminal records. She’s found it reduces the odds that a person will commit another crime.
“What ends up cutting the recidivism rate is the employment factor,” Silva said. “The whole point of it is to make it easier to get a job, so you can go to work and you’re not a financial burden on the state.”
Silva said people arrested or convicted of felony crimes carry a “double penalty” because employers are resistant to hiring someone with a record — no matter what the circumstances were.
“And we’re paying for it as taxpayers,” Silva said. “It becomes a vicious cycle for people who can’t find a job because they have a record, then return to crime because they can’t see another option.”
Legislative efforts to allow for expungement have failed in the past, but McMillin thinks the current Republican-controlled General Assembly may be more open to the idea this session.
“People make mistakes and if they can show they’ve reformed themselves and are ready to contribute to society, I think we’re ready to let them do that,” McMillin said.
One issue that won’t be easily resolved is what to do with criminal information on the Internet. McMillin’s bill would require companies that do employment background screenings to update their records, but can’t force the removal of information in digital archives that can be publicly accessed over the Internet.
But McMillin said having a court order that shows a criminal record has been expunged may be helpful to someone seeking a job because that court order can be shown to a potential employer.
“At least it gives someone an argument to say to that employer, ‘I paid my debt to society and have shown the state of Indiana that I’ve reformed myself,’” McMillin said.