For those who do not know, expunction is the process of removing a criminal record from the public eye. This is a powerful way for people to move on with their lives, but it is currently very limited in how it is used.
According to in Dallas, it can really only be used for those who were arrested or tried without being found guilty, minors who committed small infractions (such as underaged drinking), or those who were found guilty of very minor crimes (like public intoxication, driving without a license, and theft of less than $100).
It’s great that for those in such a situation that expunction is possible, but Texas needs to expand these possibilities to include far more people convicted of a crime. Not sure you buy that argument? Consider these four reasons why expunction needs to go far beyond what it does today.
People Need Another Chance
This is, of course, the big reason. While some crimes may be so bad that they should always stay on a record, there is plenty of space between those particularly heinous crimes and the ones that can currently be covered by expunction. Should someone who committed assault at the age of 20 be forced to live under that cloud when they are married and peaceful at 45? Should someone who stole $1000 worth of jewelry in a desperate moment have that conviction around thirty years later? It seems unnecessary to shackle people with these conviction records for decades after they’ve paid their dues to society.
There Are More Convicts Today Than Ever Before
This is a particularly pressing issue because there are so many more convicts and former convicts than in previous times. It’s well known we need to reform our justice system to find a better way to deal with many of our societal problems, but for now, we need to find a way to help the huge number of people going through the system return to society.
It Makes Convicts More Productive for All of Us
And if those people can more effectively return to society, we will all benefit. A conviction can often be the reason someone fails to move up in their career. They may struggle to find that first job, and the jobs they do find may be well below their capabilities. Even then, once they have a job, they may be passed up for deserved promotions because of a bias against them for old mistakes long since paid for and otherwise forgotten. If we remove all of this through expunction, the individual can be more useful to society as a whole.
It Helps Us Avoid Repeat Offenders
One of the reasons we see so much repeat offending of the law is because people feel unable to break out of the cycle they are put in. It’s easy to see why they feel that way when you consider the reasons above.
If someone pays for their crimes, they need to be able to be brought back into society, with the same kind of opportunities afforded that others have. Otherwise, they may feel they have no choice but to return to crime.
All of these reasons should really drive home how expanding expunction in Texas would do a lot not just to help those coming out of the justice system, but all of us.