More than one million Louisianians could get help expunging their criminal records
BATON ROUGE- It's a cycle that lawmakers here in Baton Rouge, and across the state continue to see. Criminals who have made a mistake -- and learned from that mistake -- finding it almost impossible to get a job.
Some of those people are legally entitled to get their records expunged. But State Senator Royce Duplessis says that process is difficult. He says an expungement costs $550 before you even hire an attorney.
"We have one of the most costly and cumbersome expungement processes in the nation," Duplessis told WBRZ. "Currently, about five percent who qualify can get an expungement."
Under the proposal, Duplessis hopes to do away with the fee and streamline the expungement process, making it easier for about a million eligible Louisianans.
"We think this will be a game changer for many people who are trying to move on with their lives," Duplessis said.
Under current law, certain violations, like violent or sex crimes can't be expunged. Duplessis says he doesn't want to change those qualifications. He says that most eligible people are non-violent offenders who have not been arrested for years.
"People don't get expungements to commit more crime, they get expungements to get a job," Duplessis said.
Last month, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved Chauna Banks' 'Ban The Box' ordinance. The ordinance would stop city contractors from asking potential hires about their criminal history, until their skills were fairly evaluated.
The bill proposed by Duplessis is something that Michael McClanahan, the Louisiana state conference president of the NAACP agrees with.
"We don't want to be in the incarcerated capital of the world, nor do we want to be in the 'I'm not going to give you a second chance' capital of the world either," McClanahan said.
Duplessis also says giving people another chance can make communities safer.
"We can't say we care about solving the crime problem if we aren't giving second chances, and in some cases, third chances," Duplessis said.
The bill is now pending the governor's signature.
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