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Gov. Dayton signs off on second chance for reformed offenders

Posted by: Abby Simons under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature Updated: May 14, 2014 - 11:57 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton signed off on a measure Wednesday that will provide a fresh start for Minnesotans with a criminal record by reforming the state’s expungement laws, urging Minnesota employers to move beyond a “one strike and you’re out” approach to hiring.

“Look at the person. Get to know them. Take the time to see who this person really is and whether he or she has demonstrated that they’re turning their lives around,” Dayton said. “It’s very destructive to our society that we’re just excluding people pro forma because of something that’s in the distant past.”

The state’s Second Chance Expungement law is the result of a years-long, bipartisan effort involving multiple coalitions to seal not just court records in the case of an expungement, but also those collected by state agencies like the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or Department of Human Services. As a result, people who successfully received an expungement were still turned away from jobs because their criminal record was still available through other searches. The new law will give judges the authority to expunge all records.

Sen. Bobby Joe Champion-DFL, Minneapolis, who authored the legislation with Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said the bill will help Minnesotans who may have a criminal record to get a fresh start to receive jobs and housing “so that they can realize their life aspirations as well.”

The next target, Champion said, is regulating for-profit data miners, such as those who publish mugshots online, only agreeing to remove them for a fee.

Champion was among lawmakers who took on the challenge to reform the law, and heard stories from advocates and people whose lives were affected by mistakes they had made in the past. Among them was 29-year-old Katie Tourand of Burnsville, who after being convicted of drug possession and aiding and abetting check forgery in 2003 and 2005, got a job and attended school at Normandale Community College. She was ultimately accepted to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and job offers quickly followed. Wells Fargo offered her a position in a selective internship program, a position later rescinded after her criminal background was discovered. Two others followed suit, the most recent three weeks ago from MetLife.

“I understand people need to be held accountable and sometimes can’t hold certain jobs. What I don’t understand is the perpetual punishment I had to endure after close to a decade of being crime-free and proving myself.” Tourand said.

Tourand still can’t apply for an expungement until 2016, but it looking forward to it. In the meantime, she’ll continue her job search. S currently works for a small business and will continue to tell her story.

Backers of the bill applauded Tourand after she finished telling her story. Among them was Dayton.

“Want a job?” he asked.

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