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OFF-KILTER with Rebecca Vallas

Apr 10, 2021

In recognition that a criminal record shouldn’t be a life sentence to poverty, there’s been a whirlwind of momentum in the states in recent years to expand eligibility for criminal record-clearing—with over half the states expanding laws for expungement, sealing, and other tools for enabling people to wipe their records clean so they can have a fair shot at jobs, housing, education and more. There’s just one tiny problem. The expungement systems that states have been building are leaving behind the vast majority of the folks they’re supposed to help.

To kick off a series of conversations with leaders in the field of reentry and criminal records reform for April as Second Chance Month, Rebecca talks to two of the leading academics behind a critical new line of research on what’s now being called the “second chance gap”—JJ Prescott, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and Colleen Chien, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and Paper Prisons Project—whose research on who’s getting left behind by hard to navigate expungement systems has been fueling state momentum to make criminal record-clearing automatic for everyone who’s eligible, instead of just the lucky few who can afford to hire a lawyer.