Ex-offenders could see second chance

Published 08/22 2013 06:49PM

Updated 08/22 2013 06:52PM

SPRINGFIELD -- A new law could give ex-offenders a second chance at a clean record. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels keeps us Connected to the Capitol.

There's a new way to wipe away certain felony convictions. The idea is, if you serve your time behind bars, then join the military, you can get your conviction expunged. Supporters say it could change a lot of lives.

"It's a revolving door-type method because a lot of the stuff they do at DOC isn't rehabilitating."

Terry Smith knows all too well how easy it is for ex-offenders to end up right back behind bars.

"It's really simple. If you get somebody stuck in that method, they become used to it."

He's already been to prison twice and says he's trying to turn his life around, but his past makes finding a job pretty tough.

"There are stereotypes, I guess you would call them. It's a label. You're a convict, you're a felon."

But, some parolees, like Smith, now have a shot at a second chance. Under a new law, if an offender with a class 3 or 4 felony, like theft or drug charges, joins the military and gets honorably discharged, they can apply to get their conviction expunged.

"I probably would have went for it. It could be a big turnaround for somebody that's in a bad spot."

Without the felony on his record, Smith says he'd probably be doing a lot better in life. He hopes those who do join, get more from it than just a clean slate.

"It would probably help better the individual themselves too in the long run."

Critics worry some will take advantage of the loophole and say they need to pay the price for their crimes. It wouldn't be automatic.

All cases would have to go before a review board. Felons with sex crimes, violent crimes or gun charges don't qualify.

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