Expungement of Criminal Records

Often called ‘clean slate’ projects, we’re working on seeing how expungement projects in different states can support each other and collaborate. To add to discussions here, everyone’s welcome to join our channel in the CfA Slack workspace - #clean-slate.

Events

From Ben Trevino:

Slack channel: #ndoch-day-of-hacking

Onward

If you’re willing, do fill in the blanks.

TOC

What is expungement?

Definitions

Expunging: If you have a criminal record, expunging it theoretically shreds that specific record in the state where you expunge it. This is only available in some states and each state has its own rules about what can be expunged and how.

Sealing: Many more states have the option to seal a record, which means it’s only visible to some people. The rules surrounding this are also different in every state. Sealing is an important part of the whole picture for people dealing with their criminal records.

Petition: An application to expunge or seal your records.

Caveats

  • It’s sometimes better to not expunge (add more details here).
  • Many systems aren’t put together well and sometimes the expungement doesn’t get communicated to every department.
  • The federal government may have a partial record of your crime, even if it was a state crime.
  • There are companies that collect and store their own data of criminal records from courts and then publish them online. They charge a fee to remove the record.

Thoughts for New Efforts

Please add ones you think of
  • Approach: Are you automating the government’s process? Are you making a tool for lay people? Are you making a tool for legal professionals?

  • Where can you find your statutes?

  • Sometimes it’s a bad idea to expunge (e.g. for immigrants).

  • Who are your stakeholders (provide link to identifying stakeholders)?

  • Setting aside regulations, what do you think are proper privacy and security measures? How will you set up informed consent with your target audience?

Who is Working on Expungement?

The CfA Slack workspace channel is called #clean-slate.

(add your own project)

Goals and Description:
Phase:
Link:

Open Questions

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

Pennsylvania (PA)

Goals and Description: Code for Philly in initial conversations with PLSE.
Phase: PLSE is already active in expungement, needs brigade help to work around new hurdles imposed by recently-passed “Clean slate” law
Link: https://codeforphilly.org/projects/philadelphia_lawyers_for_social_equity_-_record_expungement

Open Questions

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

Maryland (MD)

Goals and Description: Not a brigade?
Phase: Use (updates?)
Link:

Open Questions

Approach

Description: Tool for legal professionals.
Reasons: Form for lay folks wasn’t getting any traction. Others?

Massachusetts (MA)

Goals and Description: Code for Boston is working with Citizens for Juvenile Justice on a project called ‘Clean Slate’.

  • Advocate for changes to the laws (currently working on efforts using data analysis).
  • A form to help lay people petition to expunge (and maybe seal). Because of trouble getting access to the community, the target audience may change to professionals.
  • Help digitally organize around the advocacy work.

Phase: Discovery and feasibility
Link: None yet

Open Questions

  • Form: Is it too risky to have a lay person fill out their own form? Does a form need to be made for professionals instead?
  • Form: The law is so restrictive that most people can’t get their record expunged. How do we deal with that?
  • Form: Many users can’t access printers. How do we help them?
  • Advocacy: Can we do this through data? We have FBI arrest records for MA - are those sufficient for estimates of number of expungeable records?

Approach

Description: 1. A tool for lay people (possibly pivoting to professionals). 2. Data analysis to reveal the numbers affected by limitations in the law.
Reasons: 1. Tool - we’d like it to be available to those who can’t, for whatever reason, get to legal representation. 2. Advocacy - we’re trying to show the need for changes in the very restrictive law.

Missouri (MO)

Goals and Description:
Phase:
Link:

Open Questions

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

Ohio

Code for Dayton started working with a community partner’s law clinic >2yrs ago to “redeploy” CMR v.1 We discovered that the data required to determine eligibility from all of the >100 jurisdictions in the state resides in a central repository at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. They are public records, but access is metered. Making use of that repository is not so much a technical challenge as a political one. We’re working with community partner, state Reps et al to craft a bill that would remedy the access issue.

Code for America

Goals and Description: Working with some states’ governments to automate their expungement systems through their ‘Clear My Record’ project.
Phase: Implementation and use
Link:

Open Questions

  • Is it opt-in?
  • If not, how do they deal with situations where it wouldn’t be a good idea to expunge?

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

ExpungeVT (Vermont / Code for BTV)

Goals and Description: Streamline VT Legal Aid efforts during expungement clinics
Phase: beta - has been tested / used at one clinic so far.

Open Questions

Approach

Description: VT Legal Aid noted that they have to do a lot of data combing and collection from a variety of different pages inside the online case file system for Vermont in order to prepare an expungement request. Code for BTV worked with VT Legal Aid to build a Chrome plugin that automates as much of the page scraping as possible and dumps the needed data into a single location for the VT Legal Aid lawyer to then prepare the expungement request from. Code for BTV obtained special access to the case file system for the testing and building of the tool, and had to design it specifically so that no data from the case file system was ever downloaded or transferred out of the browser session. The project started in September 2018 and was tested at its first clinic at the end of June 2019.
Reasons:

Access2Justice Record Expungement (Code for PDX)

Goals and Description:
Phase:

Open Questions

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

Heart (Hack for LA)

Goals and Description:
Phase:

Open Questions

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

Clear My Record (Code for Dayton)

Goals and Description:
Phase:

Open Questions

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

DEAR (Bloomberg i-Team/Code for Durham)

Goals and Description:
Phase:

Open Questions

Approach

Description:
Reasons:

Resources

This topic may well be the theme for this year’s NDOCH Brigade Network-wide effort Sept 21, 2019 - tentatively being called “Day of Action.” The idea is for all Brigades to focus on a single topic that day, and apply their energy to impacting it in their local community in whatever way is appropriate for their group.
In anticipation of that, and for anyone who is curious about the Clear My Record, effort I urge you to read this excellent report.

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Our NDOCH / NDOA will also coincide with National Expungement Week. https://www.offtherecord.us/toolkit

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