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New expungement law takes effect April 11, allowing former offenders a second chance

Posted at 7:43 AM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 07:43:57-04

For more than 32 years, Rick "White Boy Rick" Wershe Jr. was locked up for a non-violent drug crime. Today, as a free man, he’s speaking out about the benefits of a new law for him and many others.

RELATED: 'I lived 32 years, 7 months in a cage.' Rick Wershe reflects on time in prison, advocates for reform

“I was one of the lucky ones," Wershe said. "Even though I did 32 years 7 months in a cage. We want to help those that need the help from my heart.”

Now Wershe is on a crusade to spread awareness and he's joined forces with Detroiter and former State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo.

“We all should be echoing the need for a second chance, and under our current framework, less than 10 percent of those eligible apply for expungement,” Gay-Dagnogo said.

A new law pioneered by Dagnogo, and passed with bipartisan support, is laser-focused on helping countless people who've made a mistake but continue to pay for it throughout their lives.

Statistics show roughly 180,000 in Detroit with criminal histories are eligible for expungement and close to a million statewide.

“You still have people who have marijuana offenses on their records that can’t even get a job," Gay-Dagnogo said. "Right now, you can only expunge one felony. We should be finding ways to get people back to work and be productive and not perpetuate the pipeline to prison.”

Beginning April 11, those with non-violent offenses such as violations or marijuana offenses will be able to clean up their records for good and much faster.

“Public Act 188 allows for three felonies to be expunged and multiple misdemeanors," Gay-Dagnogo said. "They close the records. It’s off the books.”

Public Act 188 is a pathway for citizens to be productive, which is something supporters of the law say it creates. Also, they say it lowers the burden on taxpayers when fewer people re-offend.