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The Case for a Clean Slate in Louisiana

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

by: Stacey West

Every year 600,000 people are released from prison. These are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins who, if given the opportunity, could be electricians, carpenters, programmers, hospice workers and so much more. However, many are prohibited from doing so because of the stigma attached to employing persons with a criminal history. Support for automatic record clearing is garnering support across the nation. Restricting employment for the formerly incarcerated has lasting effects on the community. House Bill 707 provides for automated expungement of misdemeanors and certain qualifying felony criminal records after a set period of time.


When resources are offered and barriers are reduced, individuals are less likely to resort to the types of activity that landed them in prison initially. Automatic record clearing allows for a long-term goal and will result in better opportunities and better economic outcomes. Individuals without a criminal record earn wages of double what individuals with a criminal record earn from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. This is particularly impactful for black people, who earn less without a criminal conviction than their white counterpart with a conviction.

House Bill 707 would give justice involved individuals a better chance to exit poverty. While only misdemeanors and certain felonies are eligible; HB707 would ease the process of obtaining employment, an occupational license, and renting an apartment for a large number of people. In November of 2021 Delaware became the 5th state to enact automatic record clearing for eligible individuals. Louisiana almost took that title during the 2021 Regular Legislative session. House Bill 604 garnered bi-partisan support and cleared the House of Representatives on a vote of 93 yeas and 1 nay. The bill failed to be brought up for a vote in the Senate Committee hearing. The individuals who would be eligible for automated record clearing could apply to have these records cleared on their own. Unfortunately, many people cannot afford the costs associated with expungement.

Louisiana has the highest expungement fees in the nation at $550, at least $300 more than any other state. Most counties in Arkansas grant expungements at no cost. Texas allows expungements for as low as $28. Mississippi expungements cost $150, while Tennessee rounds out the group at $180.

Of the $550 cost in Louisiana, $250 goes to the State Police, $200 to the Clerk of Court, $50 to the Sheriff and $50 to the District Attorney.

Although Louisiana prohibits the discrimination in hiring based on criminal records, many justice-involved individuals report difficulties attaining employment due to their record. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 1 in 3 adults has a criminal record. Decades old procession of marijuana convictions could exclude individuals from any work in the health care industry. Over the years we've seen repeated studies correlating poverty to higher crime. Increasing access to career jobs will have an impact on poverty and therefore, the community overall.

At Re-Entry Solutions our goal is to advance economic and social conditions in the region by implementing plans and processes to spur the growth of wealth, health and educational attainment of the justice-involved. Including the formerly incarcerated in the workforce is a catalyst for the economic growth of the region. According to Recidiviz, each year, the unemployment of justice-involved individuals creates a loss of about $78 to $87 billion in the national GDP. The annual loss to Louisiana’s GDP is $4.5 billion.

There are a number of factors that contribute to poverty, a criminal record from many years ago does not have to be one.

Please contact your legislators today and voice your support for HB707.

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