‘Clean Slate’ Justice Laws Offer a Second Chance—Only to Some

Clean slate laws they are sweeping the country, offering many of the estimated 70 to 100 million people with a criminal record the chance to eliminate them. The benefits seem simple: making criminal records no longer publicly available should reduce discrimination in housing and employment. The policy aims to give people a second chance, especially those who were unjustly attacked to begin with. Expulsion has been largely conceived as a way to address the errors of a legal system rooted in racial hierarchies and discrimination.

The key to this new wave of legislation is the effort to make removal automatic by transferring the burden to the state rather than the person with the record, and automating the process as much as possible through technology. These policies are a welcome relief against costly disposal processes, such as inefficient, confusing, and costly lawsuits that caused most people to abandon or never attempt the elimination process, creating a “second vacuum. opportunity “. A study in Michigan, for example, found that only 6.5 percent of people eligible for a removal successfully completed the process. By making the process automatic and automated, many hope that the elimination can reach more people, especially those who cannot afford a lawyer or who, understandably, do not want to get involved with the judicial system again, even for record sealing purposes. More than a dozen states have implemented automatic registration authorization, including eight states that authorize automatic relief from cannabis-related convictions.

Unfortunately, many states do not have the data infrastructure needed to effectively seal criminal records. A massive backlog in California has left tens of thousands of people legally eligible for registration authorization pending. And new research in California, the Clean Slate Act, AB 1076, automates the process of removing people arrested after January 2021, shows that these promising new laws can have the unintended consequence of increasing racial inequality due to the narrowness they are written about. People with a more serious history or repeated contacts with the criminal justice system are often excluded from slate policies. But the question of who has a more serious criminal record is deeply structured by the race, neighborhood, and income of the person being detained and charged.

Clean Slate Laws they have received broad bipartisan support. But making laws politically acceptable to both sides of the aisle can result in a narrow policy. And while proponents point to the common-sense benefits of criminal record removal, public opinion for criminal record removal is mixed: a recent public opinion poll found that nearly 55 percent of respondents opposed the elimination because having public access to a criminal record “keeps communities afloat”. Safe. “But the same study showed that less than 15 percent of respondents thought a person should never be able to get a removal, with support for the record-keeping authorization policy increasing for property-related crimes. and substances and after a person has been free from crime for seven or seven years.Both years Both the dominant political framework and public opinion have encouraged the policy of elimination only for low-level and non-violent crimes and for those who have shown that they can remain free from crime.

The dichotomy of violent / nonviolent crime is a bit complicated: many states consider a wide variety of crimes to be violent, including things most people would consider nonviolent, such as theft, drug offenses, and embezzlement. And “crime-free” is a more nuanced concept than we often think. For the purposes of the search warrant policy, criminal behavior is often measured by new arrests or charges and criminal convictions. But living in an overcrowded neighborhood can increase the likelihood of being stopped by police.

A new California investigation analyzed more than 2 million Californians who have been arrested at least once. Black people were more likely than other racial groups to have been convicted of a criminal charge (87.3 percent, compared to 79.4 percent of the total), and of those convicted, they were more likely to have a history of crime (73.3 percent versus 58.1 percent of the total). . 40 percent of black people are banned from deportation because of the type of crime, compared to 26 to 31 percent of people from other racial groups. This means that a disproportionate proportion of black people have a conviction for a crime that disqualifies them from expulsion. Even among people with a history of crime in other racial groups, blacks were less likely to have a sentence that met the criteria and were much more likely to have been sentenced to prison for their conviction, which goes make even more people ineligible for registration authorization.

“What our study demonstrates,” study authors Alyssa Mooney, Alissa Skog, and Amy Lerman told me in an email exchange, “is that automating records authorization alone won’t be enough to reduce racial disparities in those with a criminal record …. What will be needed to really reduce the racial gap in the criminal record is a policy change that expands eligibility for permit registration to a wider range “This is not a technological problem; it is a political problem.”

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