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.
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Prince William County, Virginia
Attorney General, New Mexico
District Attorney, Contra Costa County, California
Prosecuting Attorney, St. Louis County, Missouri
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Loudoun County, Virginia
District Attorney, City and County of San Francisco, California
RaShall M. Brackney, Ph.D.
Police Chief, Charlottesville Police Department, Virginia
State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, Maryland
County Attorney, Ramsey County, Minnesota
Jerry L. Clayton
Sheriff, Washtenaw County, Michigan
District Attorney, Ulster County, New York
District Attorney, Sixth Judicial District, Mississippi
County Attorney, Pima County, Arizona
District Attorney, 16th Judicial District, Missouri
District Attorney, Dallas County, Texas
District Attorney, Durham County, North Carolina
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, Virginia
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Fairfax County, Virginia
Thomas J. Donovan, Jr.
Attorney General, Vermont
District Attorney, 20th Judicial District, Colorado
District Attorney, Wyandotte County, Kansas
District Attorney, Wasco County, Oregon
Attorney General, Minnesota
Kimberly M. Foxx
State’s Attorney, Cook County, Illinois
Circuit Attorney, City of St. Louis, Missouri
District Attorney, Travis County, Texas
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
District Attorney, Salt Lake County, Utah
Executive Director, Law Enforcement Action Partnership Lieutenant (Ret.), Redondo Beach Police Department, California
District Attorney, Bexar County, Texas
District Attorney, Western Judicial Circuit, Georgia
District Attorney, Kings County, New York
District Attorney, Nueces County, Texas
District Attorney, Winnebago County, Wisconsin
District Attorney, Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Albemarle County, Virginia
District Attorney, Deschutes County, Oregon
District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 6, Maine
District Attorney, Dallas County, Alabama
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
District Attorney, 2nd Judicial District, Colorado
Prosecuting Attorney, Oakland County, Michigan
Sheriff, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
Prosecuting Attorney, Marion County, Indiana
District Attorney, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
District Attorney, Fort Bend County, Texas
Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Portsmouth, Virginia
State’s Attorney, Baltimore City, Maryland
District Attorney, Hinds County, Mississippi
District Attorney, 12th Judicial District, Colorado
Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Charlottesville, Virginia
Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Alexandria, Virginia
Chief, Seaside Police Department, California
Harold F. Pryor
State Attorney, 17th Judicial Circuit, Florida
Karl A. Racine
Attorney General, District of Columbia
District Attorney, Westchester County, New York
District Attorney, Suffolk County, Massachusetts
District Attorney, Santa Clara County, California
Attorney General, Oregon
Marian T. Ryan
District Attorney, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Prosecuting Attorney, King County, Washington
Prosecuting Attorney, Washtenaw County, Michigan
District Attorney, Multnomah County, Oregon
Carol A. Siemon
Prosecuting Attorney, Ingham County, Michigan
District Attorney, Albany County, New York
David E. Sullivan
District Attorney, Northwestern District, Massachusetts
Commonwealth’s Attorney, Henrico County, Virginia
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
State Attorney, 13th Judicial Circuit, Florida
District Attorney, Jefferson County, Bessemer District, Alabama
District Attorney, Buncombe County, North Carolina
District Attorney, Augusta, Georgia
State Attorney, 9th Judicial Circuit, Florida
Law Enforcement Organizations
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: