A Fresh Start

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Indiana Court Times on 3/22/2021 by St. Joseph County Judge Andre Gammage

According to a database of laws compiled by the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, “collateral consequences” all too often regulate the lives of people with criminal records, dictating where they work, where and with whom they live, and how they spend their time. As a result, after they have served their sentences, and long after they have finished probation or parole, people with misdemeanor and felony convictions remain effectively imprisoned.

In 2013, Indiana enacted an expungement statute that provided a path for eligible citizens to have convictions expunged, so long as their sentence has been completed and requisite time has passed. The statute also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person who has obtained such an expungement. However, most people in need of an expungement find the statute difficult to navigate.

My cousin (Keith Gammage), Solicitor General of Fulton County, Georgia, initiated an expungement effort and described it as an opportunity for families. I felt it was my responsibility to lead a similar initiative in my own county and bring about the opportunity intended by the statute—to allow justice to be served in an unconventional way and oblige those who could not partake in it because of their economic status.