Public Policy Forum Blog

Forum to study expungement policy

With state legislatures across the country struggling to balance their budgets, Governing magazine reports that many are looking to corrections budgets as a source of savings. Interestingly – as reported in a Governing article last week – they are doing so not simply by cutting budgets, but by pursuing a variety of policy changes that aim to reduce recidivism by easing ex-offenders’ reentry into their communities and the workforce.

According to the Governing article, those changes include eliminating restrictions on the ability of ex-offenders to obtain professional licenses and expanding the rights of ex-offenders to “expunge” (remove) certain crimes from their records after paying their fines or serving their sentences. Such changes are being advanced by both Democratic and Republican-controlled state legislatures, with proponents from both sides of the aisle citing potential outcomes that include reduced prison crowding, lower corrections spending, and increased employability of ex-offenders.

Here in Wisconsin, the State budget recommends spending $1.24 billion in fiscal year 2018 on corrections, which would represent about 3.3% of total spending. Meanwhile, we know from our previous research on common barriers to employment that a majority (60%) of the males who participated in six major workforce development programs in Milwaukee County had criminal backgrounds. The same was true for 19% of female participants.

In light of that knowledge, we plan to study current expungement policy in Wisconsin and other states and assess the potential impact policy changes could have on the population of ex-offenders in Milwaukee County. Look for that research to be released by January!

Joe Peterangelo