Second chances: Flint expungement fair draws hundreds as Clean Slate Initiative takes effect

“A lot of doors were closed in my face.”
The Flint Expungement Fair
The Flint Expungement Fair(WJRT)
Published: Apr. 10, 2021 at 10:53 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) (04/10/2021)--A chance for a fresh start-- that’s what a new law taking effect tomorrow will give to thousands of people across the state.

The Michigan Clean Slate Initiative promises automatic expungements for certain offenses. Attorneys and advocates were on hand Saturday to give hundreds of flint residents the good word about their chances at that fresh start. Saturday’s event at the Dukette School, an expungement fair, was all about getting past offenders the information they needed.

“I stand on the shoulders of countless others.”

Trouble with the law put Johnell Allen in the cell where he’d spend most of his adult life.

“I’m a living witness and testimony of how you can have a second chance,” he related.

It’s why, since his release three years ago, he’s dedicated his life to helping others who have been in those shoes. Like his work with Nation Outside Flint—an organization that supports and represents people with records, trying to hit the reset button on their lives – spreading the word at Saturday’s expungement fair, where folks began to line-up around nine Saturday morning.

“As you can see with the crowd here, this is a phenomenal event already,” Johnell gestured to the crowd gathered behind him. “People are engaged and understand, guess what, they have a second chance.”

People like Robert Massie, Junior, who’s now retired, but still weighed down by several misdemeanors he got back in the 1970s. Here, a wait in line, could make a world of difference.

“It means I can get doors open again,” he said. “I can go get a job if I need one again.”

Under the Clean Slate law, up to two felonies and four misdemeanors will be automatically cleared. Most traffic offenses are included, though any Driving while intoxicated convictions are not eligible. Marijuana misdemeanors qualify as well. Probation and parole sentences can also be reduced as part of this program. Serious misdemeanors or a felony can be expunged after 5 years.

“I find it very difficult to excel in life in every area.”

Terry Givens told ABC12 he hadn’t had any contact with police in 25 years now. Once a struggling addict, Terry now has a doctorate in religious studies, yet still finds new opportunities often elude him because of the black mark that turns up on background checks.

“Oftentimes, when people look at your application or your resume… they just look at the fact that there’s a felony,” he explained. “A lot of doors were closed in my face.”

Doors Johnell’s grateful to help folks reopen, giving them a better shot at staying out of trouble and turning the page on an often painful chapter.

“When we look out here, these are people who were trying to do better. They’ve made a conscientious effort to say, you know what, I’m done with that.

The clean slate initiative is tracking 20 states making similar changes to Michigan. 9 states have enacted conviction relief programs for misdemeanors and felonies. Other states have changed how long you have to wait to get your record expunged. 4 other states have joined Michigan in automatically sealing juvenile records.

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