KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new Missouri law taking effect next week could impact thousands of individuals with a criminal record. The state is greatly expanding who qualifies to get their record wiped clean.
Malekia Morton is a proud mom of two, but she admits she’s made some mistakes.
“I committed a lot of things when I was younger, and as I’m now an adult trying to change my life and everything, it’s very, very hard,” Morton said.
Morton caught a felony tampering conviction seven years ago. Ever since, finding housing and a job has been tough.
“I would just like if I made a mistake in the past to give me a chance in the future to change because how do you expect someone to change if you keep on closing doors on me, if I’m trying to do better with my life?” she said.
Morton is thrilled that Missouri is set to expand its expungement program.
Under current law, only 13 offenses are eligible to be wiped off your record, and offenders often have to be clean 20 years to even apply.
The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, creates a process to seal more than 1,900 eligible offenses, and you only have to wait three years to apply for misdemeanor expungement and seven years for felonies.
“I feel like I’ll be able to do me a great career like I always wanted to do, and I don’t have to worry about the barrier of my past hindering me with my future,” Morton said. “It’ll be exciting for me and my kids to see mommy’s doing well and she don’t have to work through those hoops anymore.”
Beyond the Conviction Building Brighter Futures said expungement has been easy in Kansas for years, and Missouri is now catching up.
The nonprofit is working to raise funds and find partners to help eligible ex-offenders fund the legal costs to apply for expungement. The group said sealing old criminal records will help with the two biggest barriers many ex-cons now face: finding housing and jobs.
“We might drop down to two percent unemployment rate because there’s jobs out there,” said York Wilson with BTC Building Brighter Futures. “It’s just the fact of people having records or having things to hinder them, that they won’t be able to get the job. So people will be more employable, and it’ll be better for the community.”
Wilson thinks with more former felons finding work, it’ll also help drop crime and lessen the burden to everyone with fewer people landing back in jail and fewer folks relying on social services to get by.
You can learn more about Missouri’s new expungement law and read the entire bill here.