“Positive Credentials That Limit Risk: A Report on Certificates of Relief”

We are pleased to present a new report dealing with “certificates of relief,” a form of relief from the collateral consequences of conviction that is less far-reaching than record clearing but potentially available to more people at an earlier point in time. These certificates, offered by a court or correctional agency, do not limit public access to a person’s record but are effective in reducing many record-related disadvantages in the workplace, including by providing employers and others with protection against the risk of being sued for negligence.

Positive Credentials That Limit Risk: A Report on Certificates of Relief makes the case that, at least as long as expungement and sealing remain unavailable to many people with a felony conviction record, or are available only after lengthy waiting periods, certificates of relief can provide an important addition to a state’s reentry scheme, and serve as a bridge to more thorough forms of record relief like expungement or pardon.

At the same time, in a promising development, certificates are beginning to be widely used by prison and parole agencies to encourage employment opportunities and otherwise facilitate reentry for those exiting prison or completing supervision.

Given the perceived limits of record clearing as a comprehensive reentry strategy, social science researchers have become interested in studying the effect of laws that aim to increase the positive information about individuals with a criminal record to counter the negative effect of the record itself. This report is intended to support these research efforts by describing the state of the law relating to certificates of relief in the 21 states that now offer them, and by suggesting directions of further research. A follow-up study will look at pardons.

We hope that this report will stimulate public interest in a type of relief that has been neglected in recent years as background screening has become widespread, and suggest ways to make it more widely appreciated and available. Our goal is to encourage a view of certificates and expungement as complementary parts of a single structured system of serially available criminal record relief.

As state certificate programs are referenced in the body of this report, readers may want to refer to the comparison charts and state-by-state summaries of the law included in the Appendices.  Certificates can be put into the broader context of a state’s other record relief mechanisms in the state profiles from CCRC’s Restoration of Rights Project.


Judge Gleeson to speak about collateral consequences

Capitalizing on the growing interest in the employment discrimination faced by people with a criminal record, Cornell University’s ILR School will host a program next month featuring Judge John Gleeson on “The Role of Courts in Managing Collateral Consequences.”  Details of the program, which will take place in Manhattan on September 29, are here.  Last year, Judge Gleeson expunged the conviction of a woman he had sentenced 13 years before, and later issued a “federal certificate of rehabilitation” to one of the woman’s codefendants. While the 2nd Circuit recently reversed Judge Gleeson’s expungement order, the government did not appeal his certificate order.

Participating with Judge Gleeson on the Cornell program are New York Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic, who recently presided over a mass certificate ceremony in Brooklyn; and Michael Pope, Director of Legal Services for Youth Represent, who last month won a significant victory for a woman whose shop-lifting conviction had resulted in her rejection as a school bus attendant in New York City.  Ted Potrikus, President and CEO of the Retail Council of New York State, and Margaret Love, Executive Director of the CCRC, will also participate.  Registration is now open for the program, which carries CLE credit. Read more