A new initiative launched by Ramsey and Washington counties on Thursday will help east-metro residents with criminal pasts expunge their records.
The two counties have launched the online resource www.helpsealmyrecord.org, where county residents who have been convicted of and punished for low-level crimes are able to apply to have their criminal records sealed.
This would make the records inaccessible to the public unless by court order, with county attorneys John Choi (Ramsey) and Pete Orput (Washington) saying that a criminal record too often presents a barrier to jobs, housing, and education, and prevents people "from serving as productive members of our community."
The problem with the current system, the county attorneys say, is that the process of applying to have your record sealed is "confusing, cumbersome and expensive," and as such is a step that only those with the means and the access to expertise can afford to pursue.
"By proactively helping people who have done everything we have asked of them in the criminal justice system to seal their criminal records, we are transforming our approach to ensure our residents have access to justice, increasing their likelihood of success," said Choi.
People with past crimes including 5th-degree possession, theft, damage to property, forgery crimes, card fraud and mail theft are eligible to have their records expunged.
What's more, FBI statistics say that almost one in three adults in America has a criminal record, and the county attorneys say that of those who do get their records sealed, "very few commit new crimes and, on average, they experience a significant increase in wages and employment within the next two years."
“The expungement process is confusing, cumbersome and expensive – by helping people determine if they qualify and appealing to the court to seal the records of those who do, we are removing these burdens for our residents,” said Orput.
"As prosecutors, we must recognize that restoring people to productive members of our community when they do well is equally important as administering consequences when they commit crimes.”