Coalition presses for expungement reform at 15th Annual Second Chance Day 

Keith Schubert/MSR News A choir at the 2018 Second Chance Day on the Hill event.

The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition (MNSCC) hosted a virtual live ​​stream through Zoom on Mar. 1 to usher in the organization’s 15th Annual Second Chance Day on The Hill.

The hour-long live stream was opened by MNSCC President Emily Terrell with Minnetonka City Council Member Kissy Coakley serving as emcee. 

The​ organization had several of its members speak on its operations and the bills they are pushing to pass the state legislature, including the Clean Slate Act. The event also included speeches from supporting politicians and people who used MNSCC’s services.

During her opening speech, Coakley emphasized how important it is to give people second chances after going through the criminal justice system. “I had my own experience with the criminal justice system,” Coakley said. “And at that time, I had a misdemeanor. And when you get those misdemeanor charges, it is really hard to recover from those.”

Coakley cited the difficulty she experienced in getting the misdemeanor charges expunged from her records as a personal reason why she agrees with MNSCC’s position that expungement should be automatic for offenders who have served out their sentence and probation.

Several state legislators and representatives also spoke during the event. Prominent public figures included Minnesota Representative Jamie Long, co-chair of the Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, and Minnesota First Lady Gwen Walz, who has a long history of supporting MNSCC.

“When you think about the criminal justice system and you think about the design of that, that is terrifying in some ways,” Walz said. “Because that system is designed to get exactly what it is getting, and we know the issues with what it is getting.”

MNSCC supports seven current bills at the state level for the 2022 session. If passed, HF 2349 would increase funding for rehabilitation programs for incarcerated Minnesotans, and bill HF 876 would restore the right to vote for ex-felons who have served out their sentence.

MNSCC refers to the remaining five bills as the “Juvenile Justice Package.” The five bills in this package would change how youth are treated in the criminal justice system, such as raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 10 to 13 years of age; requiring parental notification and attorney consultation before minors can be interrogated by police; and eliminating life sentences without parole for minors.

Terrell closed out the live​ ​stream by thanking sponsors and saying MNSCC has more work to be done. “To see huge issues that impact our lives be placed front and center in our democracy and in the people’s house means so much to so many,” Terrell said.

“There is undeniably so much work to be done to reach our vision of systems that respond to harm in ways that lead to healing and repair for harmed communities, responsible parties, and communities,” she said.