ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — At the south Minneapolis restaurant, All Square, the motto is “don’t judge, just eat.”

The business model was created out of simple fairness, where one’s past offenses won’t keep a prospective employee with a criminal background from getting hired.

“Once you have a record you’re virtually excluded from everything in society. And so we’re here to flip that paradigm and invest in those who do have records,” explained founder Emily Hunt Turner.

Sadly, too many people with minor criminal records face discrimination in many aspects of their lives long after their sentence or punishment is served.

They face discrimination in housing, finding meaningful employment, even getting barred from accessing student financial aid.

“Our practices in the criminal justice system must account for reconciliation, rehabilitation and redemption,” explains Ramsey County Attorney, John Choi.

That’s why Ramsey and Washington counties are launching a website to help those with offenses like minor drug, theft and property crimes navigate the expungement process.

Prosecutors say the state expungement law is both cumbersome and costly. It involves a court hearing and often requires a client from hiring an attorney just to apply. Not to mention the added cost of a $300 court filing fee.

So the new website will help clients cut through the red tape and speed the process, allowing them to get on with their lives.

“This is all about doing the right thing,” said Washington County Attorney, Pete Orput.

Expungement has been available to qualifying offenders since 1996 and has recently been reformed by the legislature. It does not apply to those who are convicted of violent offenses and serious felonies.

Orput says the website is intended to help those ease the process of sealing records and by so doing is restoring fairness in the criminal justice system.

“This is going to help those who’ve done one offense, one mistake and they want to have it over, and I want it over. That’s doing the right thing,” added Orput.

Judges still have to approve the expungement. But the message is clear, punishment should end when a sentence is served.

Bill Hudson

Comments