Empower Missouri held a press conference earlier this week in order to bring attention to the Clean Slate Campaign, which they are leading throughout the state.
Empower Missouri is a nonprofit statewide anti-poverty advocacy organization. Recently they have been campaigning for record expungement reform for eligible people.
Rep. Phil Christofanelli and Sen-Elect. Curtis Trent sponsored legislation centered around automatic record expungement discussed at the press conference.
The proposed legislation would automatically wipe away misdemeanor convictions after three years and felony convictions after five years, assuming the felony is eligible.
While many people are eligible for expungement of their record, most miss out on the opportunity since the only way to do it is through a court petition. A court petition is a very lengthy, complicated and potentially expensive process according to Christofanelli
“Under Missouri law, if you want to get expunged right now, you have to go through essentially a court petition and that costs a lot of money and a lot of time and so that’s why we are only seeing 1% of people utilize these services,” Christofanelli stated.
Christofanelli talked about his experience with the process through his own practice, which he stated could cost thousands each time if his firm did not do it pro bono.
He also went more in depth about the specifics of the proposed legislation, including its portal and notification process.
“I think this is a common sense bill to let people take advantage of the rights we afford them under the law without exuberant costs”.
Trent spoke about the benefits of the automatic expungement, which would include better access to housing and employment opportunities. He also mentioned how other states already have laws similar to this legislation.
“Once people pay their debt to society, they should have an opportunity to start over. They should have a clean slate. That is what this legislation is intending to do,” said Trent.
Besides the lawmakers themselves, the conference included a variety of speakers from around the state. This included Greg Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Coalition of Recovery Support Providers and Crista Hogan, Executive Director of the Springfield Metropolitan
Both speakers reiterated the struggles convicted people face with housing, employment and other areas of their life, as well as how complicated and expensive the court petition process continues to be. Hogan specifically talked about the extremely low number of people that are actually successful in seeking a court petition and how an automatic process would certainly help people.
The bill has been prefiled in both chambers. Its future will remain uncertain as the start of the session nears, but Trent and Christofanelli are confident that it will survive.