Redemption adds to the social good and furthers civil society, and a plan by the Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office to expunge criminal records for minor offenses will fortify both of those tenets.

County Attorney Pat McDermott announced Wednesday the county would begin taking applications for expunging or sealing of minor offense records that would then be available only to law enforcement, courts and some state agencies.

The state expungement law has been on the books for several years but Blue Earth County will now be handling local expungements at no cost. Blue Earth County joins four other counties in offering the local service, which was made easier about a year ago through a website established by the Minnesota attorney general.

While expungement no longer allows the public, employers and media to access what were public records in the past, the benefits to the people who have minor offenses removed will outweigh benefits of public inspection.

McDermott said the aim of the policy will remove barriers many face in education, employment and housing for having a minor offense on their record. In one case he cited an offender who completed a college degree and was offered a good-paying job but could not be hired because employer policy that had to consider even minor offenses.

The county attorney’s office will file the expungement petitions, and a judge must approve them. People with multiple infractions may be denied. The new service also removes the barriers of paying $300 and legal fees for filing an expungement under normal circumstances.

McDermott also noted that often times the “collateral consequences” of committing a minor crime are worse than the crime itself. We agree.

The expungement process will also help end discrimination as people of color who are disproportionately represented in every part of the criminal justice system will now have an easy way to remove minor criminal records. The previous expungement process was costly and cumbersome and generally not used because of these barriers.

And while most of the crimes that will be expunged are minor, there are some drug possession felony crimes that also will be eligible for expungement. All misdemeanors and 50 nonviolent felonies are eligible.

Other counties that handle expungement include Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington and Winona. The Attorney General’s Office handles expungement for other counties.

The county’s leadership on making expungement easier for residents should be applauded.

An online expungement application form can be found www.blueearthcountymn.gov/sealmyrecord.

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