In January of 2019, Wisconsin Senator Alberta Darling introduced a bill that would make expungement of criminal records easier in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the only state that requires expungement decisions to be made at the time of sentencing, rather than after sentences are completed. Only in Wisconsin are closed cases not eligible for expungement. Further, Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that limit expungement to defendants under the age of 25 (see the Public Policy Forum’s analysis, the source of this information, here: https://www.wpr.org/proposed-law-would-broaden-eligibility-criminal-expungement ) If this bill had been law a year ago, it could have saved Andrew’s life. As we said in his story, he was prosecuted for being a drug addict, and saddled with a felony conviction for possession of a very small amount of heroin. The collateral consequences of this conviction robbed him of his future. Sheboygan County prosecutors argued against expunging his record, meaning that serving time for the offense was not enough—rather, he was to serve a life sentence that included forever denials of educational, housing and occupational opportunities. He was understandably despondent regarding his circumstances. It’s time to change Wisconsin’s status as an outlier on this issue.
UPDATE: We just learned that AB 33, on expungement, is up for public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety tomorrow, Thursday, March 7. The hearing is 10:00 AM in room 225 Northwest of the Capitol in Madison. I urge anyone whose life (or whose loved one’s life) has been affected by a criminal record, especially a record related to convictions for drug use, attend and offer your perspective to the legislators. Wisconsin has the most restrictive expungement statute in the nation. This has created a whole subculture of people who, because of addiction, have been denied the ability to do their time and get on with their lives. Instead, they serve a life sentence of forever denials of education opportunities, job opportunities, and housing opportunities.