By SUMMER BALLENTINE – Associated Press – Sunday, June 12, 2016
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Gov. Jay Nixon is considering whether to sign a bill that would let those convicted of certain crimes in Missouri to have their records sealed if they aren’t convicted of breaking the law again for several years after completing their sentences.
Supporters of the measure say it would help those former criminals who turn things around move on with their lives and find employment more easily. Prosecutors and law enforcement still could access the records under the bill, which has the backing of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and state public defenders.
“It’s designed to give credit to those Missourians who made mistakes in their lives but who paid their debt to society and have turned their lives around,” said Republican state Rep. Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City attorney who does some criminal defense work and who ushered the bill through the House. “That’s part of the American story of redemption.”
He and others have also touted the bill as an opportunity to increase employment. Michael Barrett, who heads the Missouri State Public Defender System, said unemployment is the primary factor in whether a prior offender breaks the law again.
“I can’t think of a single initiative that will do more to improve public safety, help the economy and reduce the reliance on public benefits,” Barrett said.