Five groups are joining forces to provide legal help for people with criminal records — including those with minor convictions and others who were arrested but never convicted — to have those records expunged. Kansas Legal Services, Inc., Neighborhood Legal Services, the Duquesne University School of Law Civil Rights clinical program, the Access to Justice (A2J) Lab at Harvard Law School, and students and professors at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law have created this project to break down barriers to opportunity for those who have been blocked from seeking housing, employment, and other critical resources because of their criminal records.
Using either self-help materials or attorney assistance for record clearing, these groups are helping countless individuals across Kansas and Western Pennsylvania start with a clean slate. They also inform others about record-clearing and how it works, and direct them to available resources.
While nearly one-in-three Americans has a criminal record, only 1 in 20 of those eligible for clearing their records pursues the opportunity. This is often due to the significant legal and financial hurdles involved with petitioning for record expungement, and why automatic record clearing is so critical.
The Charles Koch Foundation is excited to stand alongside the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in supporting the project’s gold-standard randomized evaluation, which will provide the legal scholars involved with valuable information on how record clearing can improve people’s lives over time. What’s discovered will inform the growing effort to expand access to record clearing in states across the country.
Renee Danser, Associate Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships for the A2J Lab, put it this way:
“The forms you need to file an expungement case in court are complex. And it can be hard to find the information you need to fill them out. A lot of people who try to do it without any kind of legal help or guidance just give up. Current funding for civil legal aid and free legal help for expungement and record- clearing services only meets a fraction of the need.”
Learn more about the project here.