News | From the Clean Slate Clearinghouse

Clean Slate Campaign Targets Record Clearance “Gap” In States

April 23, 2019

"The Center for American Progress, along with 31 partner organizations, launched the Clean Slate Campaign in November 2018."

By CSG Justice Center Staff

Although every state allows for the clearance of at least some types of criminal records, there is a significant gap between the records eligible for clearance and those that actually end up getting removed from easy public access. This "second chance gap" often stems from a lack of awareness of the record clearance process and from the complications associated with getting a record cleared. Many people with criminal records do not know that their records are eligible for clearance. Those who do know and want to clear their records are generally required to file a formal request in court. Such filings often require the help of a lawyer and the payment of fees, sometimes totaling hundreds of dollars.

To help reduce these complications and close this gap, the Center for American Progress, along with 31 partner organizations, launched the Clean Slate Campaign in November 2018. The campaign aims to pass state legislation across the country that would make record clearance automatic for certain low-level conviction and non-conviction records, so that people with eligible records do not have to navigate the court system or pay any fees in order to have their records cleared. Pennsylvania was the first state in the nation to pass this kind of law. The Clean Slate Act, which was signed in June 2018, sets up an automated system that will regularly identify charges eligible to be cleared, notify the state repository of criminal records, and seal the records. (For more on this law, see Pennsylvania Becomes First State in Nation to Automate Record Clearance.) In late March Utah became the second state to enact a clean slate law, providing for automatic expungement of non-conviction and some conviction records. The campaign is now looking to other states where criminal record data systems might be suited to the automated approach.

Record clearance can benefit people who struggle to enter or advance in the workforce because of a criminal history, as well as employers eager for workers in a tight labor market. The Clean Slate Campaign posits that as more people with criminal records get good jobs, the country will see improvements in family stability, community safety, and fiscal health.