On Wednesday, May 11th, Empower Missouri, Criminal Justice Ministry, the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, Metropolitan Congregations United, the Missouri Catholic Conference, Missouri Coalition of Recovery Support Providers and More2 joined together to host a discussion on the Clean Slate Initiative, featuring speakers Rabbi Doug Alpert, Tom Casey, Brandon Reid, Christine McDonald, and Robert Richardson.
The Clean Slate Initiative is a movement to automate expungement, or the removal of past criminal convictions from a person’s record. Less than 1% of people who are eligible for expungement in Missouri will complete the process, due to the difficulty and cost. Clean Slate would make it automatic for convictions that are already eligible, and allow those citizens to move on with their lives and access fair housing, employment, and education, reducing recidivism and benefiting the entire community.
Each of the speakers brought their own unique perspectives to why Missourians need a Clean Slate. Rabbi Doug Alpert and Tom Casey from the Criminal Justice Ministry shared how their faith leads them to believe in fairness and justice for all people, and how that impacts their belief in expungement. The faults with our current justice system, including racial disparities, the impact of poverty and its relationship with the criminal justice system, and the school to prison pipeline, are among the many reasons why they believe that Missouri needs Clean Slate.
Brandon Reid, Christine McDonald, and Robert Richardson discussed their own experiences within the criminal justice system:
“I am still recovering from the collateral consequences of my convictions…I’m starting my MSW, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that I’ll be able to get my licensure. If I had the ability to expunge my record, I would never have had an issue with an apartment, I would never have to worry about getting my licensure, I would never have to worry about when I get pulled over, whether or not the cops are going to decide to pull me out of the car because they see my record. I would never have to worry when I apply for a job, do I have to disclose my felony conviction now or do I wait until later.”-Brandon Reid
“I couldn’t get appropriate medical care, and shortly after had to have both of my eyes medically removed. I applied for food stamps, couldn’t get them. Banned for life because my charges were drug related. I couldn’t get housing. Never got public housing. There were residual consequences that could have been tools in my toolbox while I was trying to stabilize my life for myself and my unborn child.”-Christine McDonald
Empower Missouri is investing deeply in passing Clean Slate legislation here in Missouri and is building several working groups on the issue. Lawmakers, businesses owners, Faith Leaders, and personally impacted people are being asked to join our efforts. To learn more and join us, visit MOCleanSlate.org. To hear more from the incredible group of Clean Slate advocates that spoke on Wednesday, you can view the recording of the entire event here.
This is a great initiative. As a former prosecutor, I understand the cost hurdle to get something done that could be automated. Certainly it could require judicial review but should not require a defendant to hire a lawyer to expunge something that is straight forward and without negative ramifications.