From an article in the Franklin Times:
GARY | Black males have higher rates of incarceration and of repeat offenses that land them back in jail or prison, statistics show.
Changing that dynamic could begin with expunging their criminal records.
That was the consensus of a discussion Thursday sponsored by the Gary Commission on the Social Status of Black Males in conjunction with the East Chicago-based group Working Outside the Walls and an alliance of grassroot activists.
The panel discussion brought together activists, religious leaders, law enforcement officers and area legislators to talk about a possible Expungement Summit in Northwest Indiana. Expunging the criminal records of juveniles and adults would help them find jobs and turn their lives around, said Bennie Muhammed, GCSSBM executive director.
Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court, outlined how she has organized expungement summits across the state line.
“It’s important for all our communities because we all have the same problem,” she said.
Brown recommended that all agencies working with ex-offenders help organize and participate in an expungement summit. That includes police departments, the courts, lawyers, the public defenders office and the prison review board, Brown said.
“This helps ex-offenders to see us all working together to give them a second chance,” she said.
Some offenses, however, don’t qualify for expungement, including first-degree murder, sexual offense of a minor and DUI, Brown said.
Current state finances may play a part in helping ex-offenders more quickly expunge their arrest and prison records to reduce the rate of recidivism, or relapse into criminal behavior, especially among black males, said Muhammed and state Rep. Vernon G. Smith, D-Gary.
There’s less money for prisons, which will encourage legislators to consider helping ex-cons find employment, Muhammed said.
In Indiana, the rate of recidivism has gone down to 30 percent” primarily because the state’s budget is in a financial crisis, Smith said. “The state is now aggressive in reducing recidivism.”
Smith said he has introduced expungement legislation before, but Republican legislators killed the bill. That may change now that Indiana is in a financial crisis, he said.
“The time is now. We have the financial need because we have to cut our budget,” Smith said. “We have to create a mindset of giving people another chance. They want to castrate you for life.”