Reproduced below is a press release describing new research by three California scholars published in the Law & Society Review, based on California sentencing data, showing how eligibility criteria for automatic record clearing “can inadvertently perpetuate racial inequity within the criminal justice system.”
This conclusion seems to us unsurprising, and likely has broader national application for two interrelated reasons: Prosecution policies nationwide have tended to result in more Blacks than Whites being convicted of more serious felonies resulting in prison sentences, while eligibility for automatic record clearance has to date been authorized primarily for non-convictions and misdemeanors (see sections 2 and 3 from the 50-state charts at this link from our Restoration of Rights website: https://ccresourcecenter.org/state-restoration-profiles/50-state-comparisonjudicial-expungement-sealing-and-set-aside-2/.) The authors recommend that “to reduce the racial gap in criminal records, a change in policy needs to happen to extend record clearance eligibility to a wider range of cases—for example, people with felonies or those sent to prison who are currently excluded.”
The California legislature seems to have anticipated the recommendations in this report, for on August 18 it enrolled and sent to Governor Newsom’s desk a bill that would extend existing automatic record clearing authority to most felonies after four felony-free years, and for the first time to felony non-conviction records. See SB 731. This makes California’s “clean slate” law by far the most extensive in the country.