The Clean Slate Initiative works to advance automated record clearance

We are pleased to publish a description of the Clean Slate Initiative we invited from its newly installed Managing Director.

The Clean Slate Initiative: Working to Ensure A Criminal Record is Not a Life Sentence to Poverty

By Sheena Meade*

As our nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an imperative that lawmakers enact policies that include the tens of millions of justice-involved people and their families— already facing economic vulnerability from the stigma of a criminal record. One in three Americans, 70 million people, have some type of criminal record, and these records can create lifelong barriers to opportunity for them and their families. 

Nearly 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges are now using background checks. Any record—no matter how old or minor—can put employment, housing, education, and other basics permanently out of reach. 

This harm is generational: Nearly half of children have at least one parent with a criminal record, resulting in difficulty for their parents to secure stable employment, economic stability and housing — all of which lead to less educational opportunities and hindered cognitive development. 

While most states allow people to petition for expungement or sealing of at least certain types of records, due to the cumbersome and complicated petition-based system used in most states, only a tiny fraction of people eligible for expungement or sealing ever obtain the relief they need. Navigating the complex record-clearing process can prove extremely challenging, often requiring expensive legal assistance and court fees—making it impossible for millions to move on with their lives.

As a national bipartisan coalition, the Clean Slate Initiative is working to fix this broken system in states across the country by advancing policies to automatically clear eligible criminal records. By sealing or expunging certain records after an individual remains crime free for a period of time we can remove these barriers, get people back to work and open the door to opportunity for them and their family.  Read more