We are pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of a national survey of the various legal mechanisms that exist in each state to restore rights and opportunities after arrest or conviction. Titled “The Many Roads from Reentry to Reintegration,” the report revises and updates the survey CCRC originally published in the summer of 2020. Like that earlier report, it includes grades for each state in nine different categories of relief, and an overall ranking of the states according to the efficacy of their combined restoration measures. Those who are familiar with the rankings in our 2020 report will find that since then many states have improved their position substantially (mostly at the higher end of the ranking scale, with several impressive exceptions) and many have not (mostly at its lower end).
We hope that this report will allow us to take stock of the extraordinary things that legislatures across the country have been able to accomplish in just the past 18 months, enacting a total of more than 250 separate laws to restore the franchise, clear criminal records, and ensure fair consideration in employment and licensing. We expect to publish the entire new “Many Roads” report next week, along with a new version of our Reintegration Report Card that showcases the states that have made the most progress and suggests how each state may improve its ranking for the next report.
Today we are publishing an excerpt from the new “Many Roads” report on two of its nine categories: record clearing for felony and misdemeanor convictions. Each state is graded separately in the two categories, although the map that is included midway through this post combines them, as they are combined in the 50-state chart from the Restoration of Rights Project. Record clearing for non-conviction records is covered in a separate section, and will be published here in the next few days.
Expungement, Sealing & Set-Aside of Convictions: A National Survey
Tens of millions of Americans have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. This number has grown substantially in the last four decades as a result of the policies of “mass incarceration” and so-called “war on crime,” with disproportionate impacts on Black and Brown people. The vast network of collateral consequences that can flow from a conviction in the modern era has been described as a new form of “civil death.” In addition to formal consequences imposed by law and rule, widespread dissemination of criminal records online and in background checks operates as a form of continuing “digital punishment.” In recent years collateral consequences of a less formal variety have extended even to mere arrest records not followed by conviction. The American way of dealing with a person’s criminal history is unburdened with the considerations of privacy, utility, and basic fairness that have shaped European systems.
The Collateral Consequences Resource Center is pleased to announce that the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) has joined as a partner in our Restoration of Rights Project (RRP). The APA is a membership organization of elected and appointed prosecutors whose mission is to provide training and technical assistance to prosecutors in the United States, and to facilitate collaboration with criminal justice partners on emerging issues related to the administration of justice. APA President and CEO David LaBahn participated in the roundtable on non-conviction records held in August at the University of Michigan Law School, a project that relies heavily on the state law research in the RRP. The RRP’s other partner organizations are the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Legal Aid & Defender Association, and National HIRE Network.
The RRP describes current U.S. law and practice concerning restoration of rights and record relief following arrest or conviction in the 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and federal system, in three formats: summaries of every jurisdiction, detailed profiles of each jurisdiction, and 50-state comparison charts. Topics include sealing and expungement, employment and licensing, pardons, voting, jury service, public office, and firearms rights. People visit the RRP more than 1,000 times every day looking for information about ways to alleviate the burdens of a criminal record.
We are very excited to have this respected national prosecutor organization as a partner in the RRP enterprise, to help bring the RRP’s resources to the prosecutor community, along with a greater awareness of the need for and availability of mechanisms to mitigate the collateral consequences of arrest and conviction. We look forward to the new perspectives the APA can bring to bear as we work to expand the RRP and make it more useful to all those interested in restoration of rights and record relief.
The Collateral Consequences Resource Center is currently finalizing a 50-state report on the availability of relief from the adverse civil effects of a criminal arrest or conviction. Using research from the Restoration of Rights Project (RRP), the report analyzes the data in several different categories, including executive pardon, judicial record-closing and certificates, and regulation of employment and licensing. It showcases those states that have the most comprehensive and effective relief mechanisms, and at the same time provides a snapshot of the extraordinary recent interest in restoration of rights and status in state legislatures across the country. It also looks at what states are doing to enable less serious offenders to avoid a criminal record altogether, through statutory deferred adjudication programs managed by the courts.
We preview here the report’s conclusions, illustrated by a series of color-coded maps that create a visual image of where people with a criminal record appear to have the best chance of regaining their rights and status through a variety of different relief mechanisms. The full report will be published shortly after Labor Day.
1. Executive pardon
2. Judicial record-closing
3. Deferred adjudication
4. Regulation of employment and licensing
5. Loss and restoration of voting rights
The Collateral Consequences Resource Center and its partner organizations, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and the National HIRE Network, are pleased to announce the launch of the newly expanded and fully updated Restoration of Rights Project.
The Restoration of Rights Project is an online resource that offers state-by-state analyses of the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to restoration of rights and status following arrest or conviction. Jurisdictional “profiles” cover areas such as loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms rights, judicial and executive mechanisms for avoiding or mitigating collateral consequences, and provisions addressing non-discrimination in employment and licensing. Each jurisdiction’s information is separately summarized for quick reference.
In addition to the jurisdictional profiles, a set of 50-state comparison charts summarizes the law and illustrates national patterns in restoration laws and policies. We expect to supplement these resources in weeks to come with jurisdiction-specific information about organizations that may be able to assist individuals in securing relief, and information on other third-party resources.