Kids in Michigan might get a new way to keep their criminal records clean. A bill in the state Legislature would let juveniles who meet certain requirements have their criminal record expunged – if they complete a rigorous school program.
“We want to give these guys and girls a fresh start in life when their initial rollout has been a little bit rocky,” said bill sponsor Representative John Bizon, R-Battle Creek.
The law currently lets a judge wipe one felony and up to three misdemeanors off their record. That's if the judge decides wiping the record is "consistent with the public welfare". If passed, the law would encourage a judge to expunge a kid's crime if he or she completes the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy.
The academy is a 17-and-a-half month program managed by the Michigan National Guard. It includes two phases and the people in the program live a regimented, military-style life.
Colonel Jeff Connell is the director of the academy. He says 85% of the graduates don’t go back to the old lifestyle that put them in the program to begin with.
“So there is a lot of opportunity, as you know, ten thousand kids basically drop out of high school annually,” he said. “So there’s a lot of help that’s needed out there.”
Bizon said one of the benefits of the program is that the staff works with the kids even after they graduate.
“We give them a group of teachers who are very interested in their long-term welfare,” he said. “They very much become like family.”
The House passed HB 4768 unanimously on Wednesday. It’s now on its way to the Senate.