Getting and keeping a job can help keep reformed criminals out of prison. The honest income makes a difference. But a criminal record can be a barrier to employment. Some employers are naturally skittish about hiring ex-convicts.
So beginning July 1 Indiana will offer thousands of Hoosiers the opportunity to have their criminal records expunged.
Employers doing background checks wouldn't be able to see crimes like drunken driving and drug dealing once the records have been scrubbed. More serious crimes might be marked as expunged but remain public record.
Most of the crimes eligible for expungement are nonviolent. Sex crimes and misconduct of a public official are not eligible to be scrubbed from a criminal record.
However, police would still be able to view these past offenses. That's important for obvious public safety reasons.
There are strict requirements for expungement, including a court hearing and judicial oversight. Ex-convicts must have a clean record for at least five to eight years, depending on the crime.
Expungement is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, too. No one is allowed to submit a second petition.
It is good to see so many safeguards in place, and that police will still be able to see criminal records.
This should not be seen as being soft on crime. Rather, it is about bringing stability to the ex-convict's life and strengthening public safety as a result.
Having a job strengthens not only the individual's economic prospects, but of society as well.
When the crime was minor, especially nonviolent, and there is proof that the criminal has changed his or her ways, expungement can be a good option.