SANTA FE, NM - Today, a group of criminal justice reform advocates, comprised largely of formerly incarcerated people and crime survivors, hand delivered dozens of letters urging Governor Lujan Grisham to sign HB 370, the Criminal Records Expungement Act. The bill, which was passed with bipartisan support in both the New Mexico House and Senate, would allow people with certain types of criminal records to petition a court to seal those records from public view. New Mexico is currently one of only a handful of states that does not provide its citizens a meaningful path to clear criminal records.
“Expungement gives people an opportunity for a clean slate and a second chance,” said Barron Jones, Smart Justice Coordinator for the ACLU of New Mexico. “Many New Mexicans have made mistakes in their past or have been wrongfully charged and convicted and are ready to move forward with their lives. However, for many people a criminal record is a lifelong scarlet letter which prevents them from moving beyond past mistakes and living successful and healthy lives.”
According to the National Employment Law Project, over 65 million Americans live with a criminal record and face countless obstacles because of it. Many people are denied housing or employment because of criminal records, some of which are decades old. These lingering records don’t just affect the individual; they can have cascading consequences that impact entire families and communities because of an inability to obtain employment, education, and safe housing.
HB 370 was carefully crafted to strike a healthy balance between the public’s right to know and an individual’s ability to move on with their lives. HB370 contains significant restrictions on the type of records eligible for expungement, time frames based on the charges, and requires a hearing before a judge. Expunged criminal records will continue to be visible to the police and the courts.
A recent study released by the University of Michigan found that people who have their records expunged reoffend at significantly lower rates, comparing favorably with the general population, and see wage increases of 25% within two years of expungement. Increased employment, educational, and safe housing opportunities post expungement have proven to remove some of the root causes that drive recidivism.
“The men and women who delivered these letters today are asking the governor to give them and other formerly incarcerated New Mexicans a second chance by signing expungement into law,” said Jones. “Many of us with past convictions are eager to turn over a new leaf, but our records prevent us from fully reintegrating back into society. Governor Lujan Grisham has an opportunity to get smart on crime by removing some of the barriers that prevent New Mexicans from moving forward on a better path.”