Gary church, lawmakers host expungement forum
By Lisa DeNeal Post-Tribune correspondent June 28, 2013 2:12PM
State Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, listens to an audience member after an Expungement Law Forum. | Photo by Lisa DeNeal for the Post-Tribune
At a glance
The Indiana Expungement Law is effective Monday, July 1. The House of Representatives on Feb. 5 voted 82-17 on House Bill 1482 allowing some arrests and convictions to be expunged after a waiting period. Misdemeanors like battery, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, OVWI, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, and providing alcohol or tobacco to a minor, may be expunged five years after the date of conviction. Some Class D felonies, such as counterfeiting, theft or possession of a controlled substance, may be expunged eight years after the date of conviction. Sex or violent offenders, homicide convictions and human and sexual trafficking are not eligible for expungements. Source: The Northwest Indiana Initiative.
Updated: August 2, 2013 6:22AM
Larry Prachett, 60, of Gary, sat on a back pew inside Progressive Community Church June 15 with a folder of papers and a prayer.
On July 1, the Indiana expungement law takes effect, allowing Indiana residents the ability to have past, non-violent crimes removed from public background checks and gives them better chances for employment and to be an active part of society.
It is a chance that Pratchett, who spent two years in jail more than 40 years ago.
“I lost a job at the casino because of my record and now do odd jobs. I’ve paid my debt to society but I’m still a prisoner,” he said.
The church, under the Rev. Curtis Whittaker, hosted a forum with The Initiative for Northwest Indiana, a project of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, where Renee Hatcher is staff attorney.
Hatcher is the daughter of former Gary mayor Richard G. Hatcher.
Renee Hatcher was joined by Indiana state Reps. Vernon Smith and Charlie Brown, both Democrats, and Republican Rep. Jud McMillin.
The forum provided information on getting specific old criminal records expunged or sealed to 50 attendees. Local attorneys were also available to answer questions.
McMillin, of Brookville and a former deputy proscutor, attended the forum and co-authored House Bill 1482, saying a nonviolent offender should not be punished forever because of a couple mistakes.
“This law will change lives, the community and the state,” McMillin said, adding that a 60-year-old Indiana man living in Florida who could not get a hunting license because of criminal record in Indiana inspired him to fight for House Bill 1482.
Smith has created numerous bills for an expungement law for years prior to McMillin’s but they never passed. He is elated that McMillin picked up the baton.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the city supports House Bill 1482.
“We hire convicted felons in the city. One, two, three mistakes should not define anyone’s life. Everyone deserves the dignity to work and take care of their family,” she said.