Bipartisan momentum for clean slate and also fair possibility licensing policies—which remove obstacles to economic opportunity for human being facing the stigma of a criminal record—has grown significantly in the claims in recent years.

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A hiring authorize is displayed in the home window of a Brooklyn service in brand-new York, October 2018. (Getty/Spencer Platt)

Following America’s fail experiment through mass incarceration and overcriminalization, an estimated 70 million to 100 million american now have some type of criminal record.1 while felony records carry the best stigma, in the digital era, any record—no matter how old or minor—can was standing in the method of reentry, financial stability, and full authorized in society.

The proliferation that criminal background checks alongside the sharp rise in the re-publishing of the populace saddled v the stigma of a record—which has reached 1 in 3 U.S. Adults2—have become major drivers that poverty and also racial inequality in the joined States. Ripe in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges and also universities now use background check to display screen out applicants with criminal records.3 Often referred to as “collateral consequences,” the resulting obstacles to employment, housing, education, and other basics put economic stability, permit alone upward mobility, out of with for tens of millions of individuals and also families—disproportionately from neighborhoods of color—who have actually been affected by the U.S. Criminal legit system.

Black, Indigenous, and also Latino neighborhoods have been specifically harmed by the dramatic boost in the number of people through records. Decades of biased policing and also charging have resulted in world of shade disproportionately bearing the brunt of massive incarceration and overcriminalization in the joined States, and also likewise, the criminal records crisis has likewise exacerbated stark level of gyeongju inequality. A recent study through the Brennan center found that human being who have been incarcerated view their subsequent earnings decreased by an average of 52 percent, v an typical lifetime income loss that nearly half a million dollars; in the aggregate, human being with criminal convictions face lost incomes in overfill of $372 billion every year.4 as Michelle Alexander argued in her watershed tome The brand-new Jim Crow, mass incarceration and also its regularly lifelong collateral results serve as main point underpinnings the the towel of structural racism that defines much of 21st century American society. Black, Indigenous, and Latino people are disproportionately criminalized and an ext likely to have actually a record and also be treated unfairly across culture because of it.

The aftermath ripple front generationally, with a organize of far-ranging negative effects on families and also children. A prior evaluation by the facility for American Progress discovered that nearly fifty percent of U.S. Kids now have at the very least one parent v a record.5 The financial barriers associated with a parent’s record duty as what child advance experts speak to an “adverse childhood experience,” jeopardizing children cognitive development, college performance, education attainment, and also even your earnings and also employment in adulthood. The tradition of incarceration is likewise distributed unevenly among white, Black, and Latino children: approximately 1 in 9 black color children and also 1 in 28 Latino youngsters have an incarcerated parent, compared with approximately 1 in 57 white children.6

Prior come the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting financial downturn, workers with criminal records were currently facing a permanent recession of your own. According to the Prison policy Initiative, the prepandemic U.S. Unemployment rate for civilization with records was in the double digits, if the all at once unemployment price was 3 come 4 percent.7 Shutting civilization with records out of tasks comes at good cost not only to individuals and families, who confront entrenched poverty and also often a cycle of recidivism when great jobs are out that reach, but additionally to the U.S. Economic situation as a whole. Before the pandemic, approximates put the cost of employed losses amongst workers with documents at $87 billion annually in shed gross domestic product, on height of the country expenditures on massive incarceration that $80 exchange rate to $182 billion each year.8

Critically, the lifelong aftermath of a document stand in sharp contrast with the realities that redemption and also recidivism. Empirical research confirms that when an individual v a prior conviction stays crime-free for four to seven years, their threat of recidivism is no better than the threat of arrest amongst the general population. Civilization with documents are hence treated as “criminals” lengthy after they present any significant risk the committing a future crime—relegated come the ranks of a irreversible underclass because that no factor with any type of sound basis in public safety. Again, the stigma that a document creates better hurdles for world of color; for example, a seminal study by Devah Pager discovered that white men who suggested a conviction document on their project applications received an ext job callbacks than Black guys without records, with Black men’s callbacks dropping by an additional two-thirds as soon as they suggested a record.9

In bespeak to attend to the life sentences to poor that 10s of numerous Americans are currently serving—and i beg your pardon no judge ever before handed down—CAP teamed up with ar Legal services (CLS) in Philadelphia in 201410 to suggest a brand-new idea referred to as “clean slate”: do criminal record clearance both automatic and automated, so that everyone standard to have actually their document sealed or expunged can accessibility the services of record-clearing, nevertheless of even if it is or not they room able come afford a lawyer to help them navigate the often byzantine petition process. Research has recorded that fewer than 10 percent of americans who are eligible to have their records cleared are properly able to perform so, due to the immense cost and also complexity the petition-based court systems.11

Meanwhile, the national Employment regulation Project (NELP) has supported state leader in adopting another brand-new idea called fair possibility licensing, which revolutionary state work licensing laws that impose unfair and unnecessary barriers to employed for human being with records, restricting accessibility to jobs in fast-growing markets such as health care, education, and also transportation. Today, virtually one-quarter that U.S. Workers require a federal government license or certificate to work in their chosen fields, and also applicants because that those credentials are generally required to clear strictly background check with broad exclusions that execute not advance community health and also safety or wider economic stability and growth.12

In 2016, with assistance from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, CAP, CLS, and NELP teamed up to launch a three-year initiative focused on sustaining state leaders in progressing clean slate and also fair opportunity licensing plans in the states. In the year since, bipartisan momentum for both clean slate and fair chance licensing has exploded, through dozens that states progressing these plan reforms come remove obstacles to financial security for their justice-impacted residents. Meanwhile, bipartisan inert has begun trickling up to the commonwealth level as well, with Congress taking steps on both the record-clearing and also licensing front and President Joe Biden pledging to adopt these and other second chance policies during the 2020 presidential campaign. This report highlights the transformational development a diverse selection of red, blue, and also purple states made on these problems from 2017 come 2020 and offers situation studies spotlighting some of the state leaders driving momentous change, consisting of CLS in Philadelphia, which has actually played dual roles as a state leader advancing version reforms in Pennsylvania and a national skilled providing technical assistance and support to community-based organizations in various other states. This report likewise offers finest practices and also lessons learned from countless of those successes because that the advantage of state and also federal advocates and also policymakers.

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As leaders at every levels of government work come “build back better” and deal with the nation’s tradition of racial injustice and also persistent racial inequality, removing obstacles to employment for employees with records is needed more than ever. In the midst of the destructive impacts the the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, clean slate and fair chance licensing plans are an important steps come ensure a full and also equitable recovery the does no leave tens of countless system-impacted individuals and families behind.