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Second chances: Bemidji woman hopes record seal will open doors

Ivie Roberts, 38, is seeking expungement to seal her prior convictions from her background. She poses by the lake at Lake Bemidji State Park on June 5, 2024.
Larissa Donovan
/
KAXE
Ivie Roberts, 38, is seeking expungement to seal her prior convictions from her background. She poses at Lake Bemidji State Park on June 5, 2024.

Ivie Roberts, 38, said she has experienced many setbacks from her prior convictions and hopes an expungement, or record seal, will lead to better opportunities.

BEMIDJI — We all make choices in life. The choices we make as young adults can change the trajectory of our lives forever, sometimes for the better but too often for the worse.

When these choices land someone in the criminal justice system, barriers to housing, employment and even education can stand in the way for decades.

Ivie Roberts, 38, is a Red Lake band member living in Bemidji. She recently attended an expungement clinic at the Northwest Indian Community Development Center, where she learned some of her past theft charges could be sealed from her background check.

"I don't think a lot of us when we're 18 [understand] that criminally, we can be charged as an adult,” Roberts said. "I don't think when we are 18, [that we] have the right thought processes down."

“A charge that's going to forever change your life... Job opportunities, potential schooling loans — a lot of life opportunities... I'm not that person still.”

Roberts explained poverty was a main driver for some of her choices in her youth, and she was glad to see people from all walks of life at the Attorney General’s expungement clinic in Bemidji.

Ivie Roberts, left, stands with Bemidji city council member Audrey Thayer and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison outside the Northwest Indian Community Development Center on May 9, 2024.
Contributed
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Ivie Roberts
Ivie Roberts, left, stands with Bemidji city council member Audrey Thayer and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison outside the Northwest Indian Community Development Center on May 9, 2024.

"Ultimately, I'm not that person [I was] when I was younger,” she said. "I have a lot more to experience in life. I'm sad that that happened to me. I'm sad that I experienced that, but all in all, we're all human.”

Expungement is a process that seals records including convictions and arrests. Last year, Minnesota passed a pair of laws related to automatic expungement of certain records, including cannabis-related offenses.

The Clean Slate Act is set to go into effect in January 2025, which will trigger more automatic expungements of low-level crimes and expand the list of offenses, from petty misdemeanors to felonies, eligible for expungement through a court-petition process.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension estimated last year that about 66,000 cannabis-related records were eligible for automatic expungement, and an additional 230,000 case records would be eligible for review by the Department of Corrections’ Expungement Review Board.

Last month, the BCA announced it sealed nearly 58,000 records that qualified under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, nearly three months ahead of schedule.

Attorney General Keith Ellison explained in a May 7 phone interview with KAXE that expunged records are still visible to law enforcement and to the courts, but no longer available on public background checks used by employers and landlords.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison speaks at a community forum at the American Indian Resource Center on the Bemidji State University Campus on May 8, 2024.
Larissa Donovan
/
KAXE
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison speaks at a community forum at the American Indian Resource Center on the Bemidji State University Campus on May 8, 2024.

"Most people who get in trouble, they don't want to get back in trouble again and that's good,” he said. “But we, as a society, all of us need these folks to be in an economic position to take care of their kids and meet their own families' needs. And sometimes cleaning up these records is what does that.”

“Of course, if you haven't turned your life around, you're not going to get expungement. But if you have, and you've cleaned it up, then I think we should give people a second chance.”

Roberts said pursuing an expungement was always on the back burner of her goals, but after 16 years of renting an apartment, she would like to have a place to call her own someday.

"I was at a point in my life where I was tired of renting and not having [any] ownership or say-so on a lot of my lifestyle, my activities. A garden is another one of my goals to help better my health,” she said, explaining that she is an insulin user as a diabetic.

Roberts applied to a local trailer park, and after paying $45 to apply for the rental she was told she didn’t pass the background check.

"Ultimately this was just another roadblock in my path of trying to better my life and just live,” she said.

Roberts said she hopes the expunged records will lead to better housing and job opportunities for her future.

"...One opportunity is hopefully going to be that rock in the lake that's going to be the ripple effect that will say, ‘It doesn't matter about the time being,’” she said. “It's going to say, ‘Ultimately, it's about the future,’ and we all want a better future.”

Larissa Donovan has been in the Bemidji area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.