Attorney General Keith Ellison records a personalized video message with information about the upcoming expungement clinic. Photo by Nafi Soumare/Minnesota Reformer.
Attorney General Keith Ellison will be hosting a clinic in north Minneapolis this week to help eligible people get their criminal records wiped clean.
The AG is working with New Justice Project and the Pathways to True Freedom Foundation on the clinic, which is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at 1101 W. Broadway, Minneapolis, and is free to the public.
Minnesota became the 11th state in the country to pass the Clean Slate Act during the 2023 legislative session. The law will automatically expunge records for non-violent, non-felony crimes starting on Jan. 1, 2025. The clinic will help Minnesotans expunge their records in the meantime, Ellison said.
Only about 5% of people eligible for expungement go through the process, said House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis. With active criminal records, people may struggle to find work or stable housing, which can lead to recidivism and a return to prison.
“We’re trying to hold people accountable for breaking the law, but we understand that that’s not the end of the story,” Ellison said. “We believe in redemption and second chances.”
To be eligible, people must remain crime free during a court-ordered “waiting period,” which can vary from zero to five years. Expungement is available for misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges, such as theft, forgery or drug possession or sale.
“We’ve had people who couldn’t go on a school trip with their kids. We met a woman in her 60s who wanted to start nannying, but she had a decades-old shoplifting conviction. Setting up an expungement program helped her do what she does best, give love and care to kids,” Ellison said.
Long said that increased expungement has the potential to reach over 100,000 Minnesotans. This should allow more people to join the tight labor market.
According to a Brennan Center study, the number of Americans today with a criminal history is equal to the number of Americans who have a college degree.
Jonathan Weinhagen, CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, estimates that $2.4 billion in cumulative wages are lost every year in Minnesota due to convictions that should be expunged.
With expungement, employers won’t see convictions on a background search.
“This is an economic opportunity bill,” Weinhagen said.
The AG’s office intends on hosting other clinics throughout the state before the law kicks in in 2025, though they don’t have any concrete plans.
If you think you or someone you know may be eligible for expungement, more information can be found at helpsealmyrecord.org.
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