The Economic Policy Institute, National Employment Law Project, and Economic Analysis and Research Network recently published a blueprint of policies, promoting good jobs, good pay, and safe workplaces, for states to take up in the upcoming legislative cycle. The agenda includes the recommendation to advance clean slate legislation, which uses technology to automatically clear criminal records for people with certain nonviolent offenses. Even a minor criminal record can create a barrier to opportunity, but clean slate legislation offers states a solution.
This first-of-its-kind study offers policy recommendations for eliminating unnecessary barriers and legal restrictions associated with a criminal record, based on the real-life experiences of justice-involved Californians and the challenges they face. Survey data show that more than three-quarters of people with records have faced roadblocks to opportunity, including nearly half that report difficulty finding employment and one-quarter who struggle to find housing. Solutions such as automated record-clearing and streamlined expungement processes can help ensure that millions of Americans are able to get the second chance they deserve.
Any criminal record—even an arrest that never led to a conviction—can stand in the way of employment. While there are many efforts to alleviate some of the barriers to opportunity that come with a criminal record, many fall short because of psychological biases. This report finds that automatically sealing records for certain criminal offenses is the strongest, most pragmatic approach.
A 2018 study from the Center for American Progress finds that, across party lines, American voters believe people who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance. The poll finds 70 percent support for clean slate automated record-clearing, including 75 percent support among Democrats and 66 percent support among Republicans.
People with criminal records face barriers to jobs, training, education, and housing every day—which can often lead to a lifetime of poverty. By sharing first-hand experiences, people with criminal records can make their voices heard and raise awareness about unjust policies and practices that prevent people who have paid their debt to society from getting a second chance.
Occupational licensing laws govern who can and cannot work in certain professions—and many of these laws shut out entire swaths of the workforce based on their criminal record. This analysis finds that such provisions not only harm job seekers with records, but also violate the constitutional rights to equal protection and due process and undermine the safety of our communities. Accordingly, policymakers should follow the lead of states that have successfully changed or removed barriers to occupational licenses.