On April 7, 2021, Badger Institute Policy Analyst Julie Grace submitted written testimony in favor of 2021 AB 69 before the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.
Read a transcript of Julie's testimony below.
Read more about 2021 AB 69 here.
Representative Spiros and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for allowing me to testify today in support of Assembly Bill 69, which would make certain changes to Wisconsin’s expungement law, including allowing judges to rule on expungement eligibility after the completion of a sentence, removing the current age restriction and ensuring that expunged crimes are not considered convictions for employment purposes.
This morning, the Badger Institute released the results of a survey conducted just two weeks ago by Public Opinion Strategies. Among other findings related to our state’s criminal justice system, we found that nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin voters support reforming the state’s expungement law to allow a judge to grant an expungement after the completion of a sentence. The support for that change – included in AB69 – extends across party lines, with 77% of Republicans supporting the reform.
Other majorities of conservative voters in Wisconsin also support this change, including 75% of voters who self-identify as “very conservative,” 72% of 2020 Trump voters and 79% of strong Republicans. More information on the results of this survey is available on our website: www.badgerinstitute.org.
Conservatives across the state support this change because it simply makes sense. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that requires a judge to rule on an expungement at the time of sentencing when very little information is known about an offender’s rehabilitation. Changing the timing of that decision to after a sentence is served allows a judge to make a more informed decision.
I recently wrote an article about a Milwaukee woman who would benefit from this law. She is unable to be here today to testify but asked me to tell a bit of her story. The only crime she has on her record is a misdemeanor (criminal damage to property). Now, 15 years later, she is employed, runs her own business, is married with kids (and has a grandchild on the way), but that one conviction still follows her. In fact, she was recently unable to rent an apartment with her husband due to that crime on her record.
I encourage you to read the full article, but this is a perfect example of who this legislation would help: Wisconsinites who have a single, non-violent offense on their record who did not ask for an expungement at their sentencing hearing or were over the age of 25 when their offense occurred but have moved on and become productive members of society. It is important to note that this legislation does not expand the crimes that would be eligible for an expungement in Wisconsin.
The Badger Institute – and nearly three-fourths of Wisconsin voters –support AB69. I am willing to answer any questions you have.