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Minnesota law provides contributing citizens with true second chance

Making mistakes are an integral part of being a human being. It's through mistakes that people learn, grow and mature into responsible and contributing members of society. In fact, it's often by experiencing the consequences of a mistake that an individual makes the conscious decision to make positive changes in their life. These were just some of the arguments that were likely posed prior to Minnesota's Second Chance Expungement law being signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

The new law seeks to prevent individuals whose criminal records have been expunged from enduring continued punishment and persecution for past transgressions. In Minnesota, judges have the authority to expunge or seal criminal records in certain cases. While doing so effectively prevents employers and others from accessing any court records related to a past arrest or conviction, criminal records kept by other government and for-profit organizations are still readily accessible.

At the panel, one woman shared her story of how mistakes she made a decade ago are still negatively affecting her life. During 2003 and 2005, the now 29-year-old woman was convicted of crimes related to check forgery and drug possession. Since that time, the woman took positive actions to turn her life around and obtain a college degree. More recently while pursuing a graduate degree from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, a coveted internship offer was rescinded after the employer discovered the woman's past criminal record.

An estimated 25 percent of Minnesota residents have some sort of criminal record. For some of these individuals, the passage of Minnesota's Second Chance Expungement law is significant in that it prevents employers and housing providers from discriminating against them based solely on past mistakes.

Obtaining an expungement of a criminal record in Minnesota is rare and only granted in cases where "benefits to the offender outweigh the disadvantages to the public of closing the records". The Second Chance Expungement law provides individuals, who have worked hard to change their lives and move far beyond past mistakes, a clean slate and true second chance.

Source: Star Tribune, "Gov. Dayton signs off on second chance for reformed offenders," Abby Simons, May 14, 2014Star Tribune, "In Minnesota, past mistakes are sealed in name only," Abby Simons, Nov. 16, 2013

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