Statement: 80 Prosecutors and Law Enforcements Leaders Sign on to Support Clean Slate Initiatives

This week over 80 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders issued a joint statement urging policymakers to expand clean slate initiatives that automatically expunge and seal criminal records.

As leaders committed to justice and fairness, we work every day to earn the trust of our communities and repair the harms that have been done by an overly punitive criminal legal system. We believe that after someone has been held accountable for their actions, they and their families deserve the chance to move forward and live whole, healthy, and happy lives.

Far too often, this is not the reality for an overwhelming number of people in our society who have a criminal record. Despite the fact that people with a criminal record have already served their time, their past history can be a life sentence to limited opportunities.

Around one in three Americans has a criminal record, some of which are for arrests that never resulted in a conviction but can still cause long-lasting ramifications related to obtaining employment, housing, public assistance, and education. Those adverse consequences impact not just those with a criminal record, but also their children and loved ones who share in the burdens resulting from barriers to housing and services and reduced household incomes. And these barriers have only been exacerbated by the growing accessibility of criminal records online.

Criminal records can impact people for the entirety of their lives, far past the point where this information is needed for public safety purposes. Research has shown that people with criminal records are no more likely than the general population to commit a new crime if they have avoided contact with the criminal justice system for four to seven years.

People should have the opportunity to automatically have their records expunged or sealed. And this should occur promptly for misdemeanor records and after a reasonable period of time for felony records. In an effort to facilitate these commonsense practices, Clean Slate initiatives are increasing in number and utilize technology to take the burden of seeking expungement off of the individual and the courts and make these endeavors a presumptive feature of the system, rather than an endeavor requiring time consuming and burdensome efforts.

As leaders charged with protecting the safety and well-being of all individuals in our communities, and during this Presidentially proclaimed Second Chances month, we call for the expansion of Clean Slate initiatives to provide people with the second chances that they have earned and that they and their loved ones deserve.

While many states have some expungement or record sealing options available, there are often significant obstacles – including lack of information and access to counsel, stringent eligibility criteria, fees, long wait times, and distrust of the criminal justice system – that make their use exceedingly rare. For example, in Michigan, only about six percent of people who are eligible for expungement are able to successfully complete the application process within five years of eligibility.

Public safety is inextricably tied to the community’s trust in the fairness and moral authority of our justice system. Given the disproportionate representation of people of color in the criminal justice system, these reforms demonstrate a necessary attempt to begin to repair the trust between our offices and the communities we serve.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also made this issue more urgent than ever, as millions of people are unemployed and struggling to access food and basic necessities. Clean Slate initiatives can contribute to a strong economic recovery by opening the doors of employment to many who would otherwise continue to be denied opportunities. Employment can be a significant factor in desistance or moving away from criminal activity, but many people struggle to obtain work due to their prior convictions or arrests. In contrast, one year after individuals have their records cleared, research has shown that they are 11 percent more likely to be employed and earn 22 percent higher wages.

Expanding access to employment and housing would have a significant impact on many people’s lives and would promote public safety by facilitating reintegration into society. That is why we believe it is more important than ever that we make record sealing and expungement automatic, efficient, and applicable to a broader group of people.

As we work to promote safer and healthier communities, we affirm the importance of, and advocate for, expanded Clean Slate initiatives that acknowledge every person’s capacity for redemption and positive change. This starting point is in the best interests of our entire community.

Amy Ashworth
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Prince William County, Virginia

Hector Balderas
Attorney General, New Mexico

Diana Becton
District Attorney, Contra Costa County, California

Wesley Bell
Prosecuting Attorney, St. Louis County, Missouri

Buta Biberaj
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Loudoun County, Virginia

Chesa Boudin
District Attorney, City and County of San Francisco, California

RaShall M. Brackney, Ph.D.
Police Chief, Charlottesville Police Department, Virginia

Aisha Braveboy
State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, Maryland

John Choi
County Attorney, Ramsey County, Minnesota

Jerry L. Clayton
Sheriff, Washtenaw County, Michigan

Dave Clegg
District Attorney, Ulster County, New York

Shameca Collins
District Attorney, Sixth Judicial District, Mississippi

Laura Conover
County Attorney, Pima County, Arizona

Scott Colom
District Attorney, 16th Judicial District, Missouri

John Creuzot
District Attorney, Dallas County, Texas

Satana Deberry
District Attorney, Durham County, North Carolina

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, Virginia

Steve Descano
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Fairfax County, Virginia

Thomas J. Donovan, Jr.
Attorney General, Vermont

Michael Dougherty
District Attorney, 20th Judicial District, Colorado

Mark Dupree
District Attorney, Wyandotte County, Kansas

Matthew Ellis
District Attorney, Wasco County, Oregon

Keith Ellison
Attorney General, Minnesota

Kimberly M. Foxx
State’s Attorney, Cook County, Illinois

Kimberly Gardner
Circuit Attorney, City of St. Louis, Missouri

José Garza
District Attorney, Travis County, Texas

George Gascón
District Attorney, Los Angeles County, California
Former District Attorney, City and County of San Francisco, California Former Chief, San Francisco Police Department, California
Former Chief, Mesa Police Department, Arizona

Sarah F. George
State’s Attorney, Chittenden County, Vermont

Sim Gill
District Attorney, Salt Lake County, Utah

Diane Goldstein
Executive Director, Law Enforcement Action Partnership Lieutenant (Ret.), Redondo Beach Police Department, California

Joe Gonzales
District Attorney, Bexar County, Texas

Deborah Gonzalez
District Attorney, Western Judicial Circuit, Georgia

Eric Gonzalez
District Attorney, Kings County, New York

Mark Gonzalez
District Attorney, Nueces County, Texas

Christian Gossett
District Attorney, Winnebago County, Wisconsin

Andrea Harrington
District Attorney, Berkshire County, Massachusetts

Jim Hingeley
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Albemarle County, Virginia

John Hummel
District Attorney, Deschutes County, Oregon

Natasha Irving
District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 6, Maine

Michael Jackson
District Attorney, Dallas County, Alabama

Kathleen Jennings
Attorney General, Delaware

Shalena Cook Jones
District Attorney, Chatham County, Georgia

Justin F. Kollar
Prosecuting Attorney, Kauai County, Hawaii

Lawrence S. Krasner
District Attorney, City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Beth McCann
District Attorney, 2nd Judicial District, Colorado

Karen McDonald
Prosecuting Attorney, Oakland County, Michigan

Gary McFadden
Sheriff, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Ryan Mears
Prosecuting Attorney, Marion County, Indiana

Spencer Merriweather
District Attorney, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Brian Middleton
District Attorney, Fort Bend County, Texas

Stephanie Morales
Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Portsmouth, Virginia

Marilyn Mosby
State’s Attorney, Baltimore City, Maryland

Jody Owens
District Attorney, Hinds County, Mississippi

Alonzo Payne
District Attorney, 12th Judicial District, Colorado

Joseph Platania
Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Charlottesville, Virginia

Bryan Porter
Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Alexandria, Virginia

Abdul Pridgen
Chief, Seaside Police Department, California

Harold F. Pryor
State Attorney, 17th Judicial Circuit, Florida

Karl A. Racine
Attorney General, District of Columbia

Mimi Rocah
District Attorney, Westchester County, New York

Rachael Rollins
District Attorney, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Jeff Rosen
District Attorney, Santa Clara County, California

Ellen Rosenblum
Attorney General, Oregon

Marian T. Ryan
District Attorney, Middlesex County, Massachusetts

Dan Satterberg
Prosecuting Attorney, King County, Washington

Eli Savit
Prosecuting Attorney, Washtenaw County, Michigan

Mike Schmidt
District Attorney, Multnomah County, Oregon

Carol A. Siemon
Prosecuting Attorney, Ingham County, Michigan

David Soares
District Attorney, Albany County, New York

David E. Sullivan
District Attorney, Northwestern District, Massachusetts

Shannon Taylor
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Henrico County, Virginia

Raúl Torrez
District Attorney, Bernalillo County, New Mexico

Matthew Van Houten
District Attorney, Tompkins County, New York

Cyrus R. Vance
District Attorney, New York County, New York

Andrew Warren
State Attorney, 13th Judicial Circuit, Florida

Lynneice Washington
District Attorney, Jefferson County, Bessemer District, Alabama

Todd Williams
District Attorney, Buncombe County, North Carolina

Jared Williams
District Attorney, Augusta, Georgia

Monique Worrell
State Attorney, 9th Judicial Circuit, Florida

Law Enforcement Organizations

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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