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DULUTH- Today, John Ruick is learning how to use the internet.He wants to turn his life around after being released from prison for selling methamphetamines.
Ruick said, "I don't want prison anymore. You know it's not the way to live."
Ruick is one of the many non–violent criminals that could benefit from a new law Governor Dayton has signed.
MN legal aid attorney, Gwen Updegraff said, "it's going to help them get jobs, it's going to help them get housing and it's going to help them get back into being productive citizens."
Ruick said, "it's hard finding felony friendly landlords and stuff. Just getting feet back on the ground is pretty stressful."
The law will allow for the records of non–violent criminals to be expunged after completing their sentences, making it easier to find housing and work and reduces chances of re–offending.
SOAR Career Solutions counselor, Greg Mertzig said, "one of the main ways to do that is to make sure that they're employed. And not just employed with survival jobs, I'm talking about sustainable employment, and one of the obstacles to that of course is the criminal history."
Lawyers say their clients frequently struggle to get work because of their past.
Updegraff said, "if not every day, then every single week we get one to five people calling about problems with criminal backgrounds."
Advocates say this is a great step in the right direction.
Mertzig said, "we all want to be safe, we want to live in communities that are safe and crime free and this is a real answer to that problem.
Updegraff said, "these are people who have gone before a district court judge and they have really made a case to this judge that they've really turned their lives around."
For people like John, this new law will help give them a second chance at life.
Ruick said, "no. I not only think I'm a good person, I know I'm a good person. I've got faults, but I keep working on it."
Expungement would not be automatic.
Prosecutors and victims would be notified and would have a chance to testify that the person in question is a danger to the community.
Convicts would have to wait between 2 to 4 years after completing their sentence or probation, and have no re-offenses, before becoming eligible for expungement.
Once records have been sealed, employers and landlords could not see offenses in background checks.
This would not apply to certain jobs, like those applying for law enforcement positions.
The law does not go into effect until January, 2015.