Expungement of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study

By: J.J. Prescott and Sonja B. Starr. Published by: University of Michigan (forthcoming in Harvard Law Review). Published on: May 18, 2018

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The abstract reads: “Laws permitting the expungement of criminal convictions are a key component of modern criminal justice reform efforts and have been the subject of a recent upsurge of legislative activity. This debate has been almost entirely devoid of evidence about the laws’ effects, in part because the necessary data (such as sealed records themselves) have been unavailable. We were able to obtain access to deidentified data that overcomes that problem, and use it to carry out a comprehensive statewide study of expungement recipients and comparable on-recipients. We offer three key sets of empirical findings. First, among those legally eligible for expungement, just 6.5% obtain it within five years of eligibility. Drawing on patterns in our data as ell as interviews with expungement lawyers, we point to reasons for this serious “uptake gap.” Second, those who do obtain expungement have extremely low subsequent crime rates, comparing favorably to the general population—a finding that defuses a common public-safety objection to expungement laws. Third, those who obtain expungement experience a sharp upturn in their wage and employment trajectories; on average, within two years, wages go up by 25% versus the pre-expungement trajectory, an effect mostly riven by unemployed people finding jobs and very minimally employed people finding steadier or higher-paying work.”



Categories: Employment, Employment, Individual Rights, Legal Aid Attorneys, Legal Aid Practitioners, News Media, Policymakers and Funders, Reentry, Reentry, Researchers and Academics, State-Specific

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