Expanding expungement

The Harvard Law and Policy Review argues that jurisdictions should consider expanding the types of criminal record information that are eligible for expungement, and provide incentives to stop discrimination based on criminal records.

Although several states have enacted laws to expand “the range of expungement remedies” available to people with criminal records, the laws have not provided sufficient relief for people who face discrimination, writes Brian M. Murray, Abraham Freedman Fellow at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in a paper entitled “A New Era for Expungement Law Reform? Recent Developments at the State and Federal Levels.”

An estimated 25-30 percent of the adult population of Americans have criminal records—a “staggering” number which continues to increase, as the FBI adds some 10,000 names to its database every day, the study says.

That makes it a priority to address the barriers faced by individuals with criminal records, which include difficultly finding employment or enrolling in educational programs, the author writes. They may also be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits, cash assistance and medical benefits.

“Perhaps the best way to limit the effect of criminal record history information is to prevent its systematic creation in the first place, even after an individual encounters the system,” Murray writes. “Arrest and conviction records attach scarlet letters to individuals.”

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