Clean SLATE: An Efficient Solution to a Messy Problem
HB 510, proposed by Louisiana House Representative Ted James (District 101), received strong support by researchers from the University of Michigan's Empirical Legal Studies Center. The researchers, who study the impact of criminal records on a person's life outcomes, hailed HB 510 as a way to, "allow for the most transparent decision-making possible in refining and moving forward on new Clean Slate policies under consideration in Louisiana."
The researchers have their own experience with data transparency working alongside the Michigan State Police. The collaboration between the two groups in Michigan led to important findings that would not have happened without sharing this crucial data. Among their findings researchers determined that only 6.5% of individuals eligible for expungements ever received one. A hugely positive outcome the researcher found was that those who do receive expungements have "extremely low" re-arrests, similar to those of the general population. Another positive they highlighted was that wages of those who received expungements go up 25%.
A taskforce created by HCR 106 (2019) issued recommendations on how to make the process of expunging old criminal records less complex. Criminal records are a major barrier to employment, housing and opportunity for one third of Louisianans, and as the country faces a public health emergency and an economic downturn, it is especially critical that Louisianans that have served their sentences get a fair shot at a fresh start.
The taskforce report urges the legislature to move forward with policies that could help decrease government-related record clearing costs, and reduce unemployment across Louisiana. According to the report, members of the taskforce included: “The Louisiana District Attorneys Association, the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Louisiana Clerks of Court, the Louisiana Public Defender Board, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, the Louisiana State Police, the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana, and Voice of the Experienced.”
“Louisiana law already makes many people eligible to expunge their criminal records after they have completed their sentences. But because we have an overly complicated, confusing process, and the highest expungement cost in the nation, many people never get the clean slate the law offers,” said Vanessa Spinazola, Executive Director of the Justice and Accountability Center. “1 in 2 Louisiana children have a parent with a criminal record. We can remove barriers to getting a good job and reduce recidivism if we streamline this process. Especially as Louisiana faces greater economic uncertainty, our government should do all they can to clear the way for hardworking Louisianans to get back to work and provide for their families.”
The process of obtaining an expungement is complicated. It requires people to purchase background checks and look up dates of incarceration from the Department of Corrections. Even after navigating this messiness, Louisianans face the HIGHEST EXPUNGEMENT COSTS IN THE COUNTRY AT $550. Complicating matters, Louisiana courts are backed up, overstressed, and economically inefficient delaying expungements for the public. Because of the complicated process, only a small fraction of those eligible to receive expungements get them. Even worse while people may receive an expungement there is no guarantee their sealed records will not show up in background checks. Further federal laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act allow companies to report incorrect information including sealed records and arrests that did not lead to convictions. It is on individual citizens to notify and dispute agencies that the information is incorrect.
Nationwide, the U.S. economy loses $87 billion by shutting
otherwise qualified individuals out of the economy.
In Louisiana 1.2 million citizens, over one third of the
state, have an arrest or conviction record that can
undermine their efforts to obtain gainful employment.
This has a ripple effect not only on the economy but also for
families: almost half of U.S. children have one parent with a
criminal record. Studies have shown this impacts children's
development, school performance, and outcomes in
Clean Slate legislation provides an efficient fix to Louisiana's troubled expungement system. Proposed legislation would create an automated system allowing those who are eligible to have their records sealed. Other states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah have passed Clean Slate legislation with support from both parties. In Pennsylvania, the first state to pass Clean Slate legislation, over 30 million records have been sealed in its first year alone! Passing Clean Slate legislation would help get Louisianans back on their feet, into good jobs, and moving forward with their lives. JAC needs YOUR help in telling your representatives to pass Clean Slate legislation NOW! Contact your state representative here!
See how Utah's law enforcement, formerly incarcerated, district attorneys, and judges came together to pass common sense Clean Slate legislation below.
Clean Slate Bills to Support
Due to COVID-19 the Louisiana State Legislative session has been turned upside down. The state's budget has been impacted by the Coronavirus and it is becoming increasingly likely that our Clean Slate Bills may not be prioritized as urgent matters to be voted by the legislature. Given this change in the Louisiana legislature, JAC wants to emphasize two bills that will lay the foundation for an automatic expungement process or "Clean Slate system" for the state. HB-510 would allow the Louisiana State Police to share confidential de-identified criminal justice system data to technical partners who will be critical in creating our state's Clean Slate system. HCR-29 will create a Clean Slate Task Force that analyzes criminal record data and provide recommendations and estimate funding needed for a state wide record-clearing system. Read more about them below.
HB-510: Allows the Louisiana State Police to share confidentially de-identified criminal justice system data with the Task Force's technical assistance partners so that we can guide the scope and process of Clean Slate automation for Louisiana moving forward. Understanding the scope and process of Clean Slate in Louisiana helps to anticipate costs for a new automated system.
HCR-29: Creates the Clean Slate Task Force, which is an extension of the HCR 106 Clean Slate Study Group that JAC Co-Chaired with East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore. The Task Force will analyze Louisiana criminal record data with the goal of implementing an automatic record-clearing system, recommend legislation necessary to create this automatic record-clearing system, and determine the amount of funds needed to create the automatic record-clearing system.
HB-178: Supports the practice of judges who currently use alternatives to incarceration by extending eligibility for expungements, especially in cases where defendants are in recovery treatment programs. Follow HB-178 here!
HB-179: Provides an opportunity for people with disabilities, veteran's who may suffer from PTSD and cannot work, family members or caretakers of disabled veterans who cannot work, and retired people to benefit from expungement by eliminating the current requirement for ten years of employment documentation for six specific convictions.
HB-241: Allows individuals who are ALREADY eligible for multiple expungements to achieve reentry success sooner by eliminating secondary waiting periods. This bill also clarifies that the current prohibition on expungements applies only to individuals in physical custody of the Department of Corrections.
SB-220: Jump start our economy and get more people back to work by reducing expungement wait times, providing opportunities for all formerly incarcerated people to benefit from expungement, and eliminating financial barriers to expungement for first time offenders.
Clean Slate in the News
2019 Clean Slate Taskforce Report Completed! The taskforce issued recommendations on how to make expungement less complex. Read here!
Read our two page fact sheet here.
Law enforcement officials support clean slate. Read here!
Read NFL players Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith's article on the importance of Clean Slate. Read here!
Research finds expungements lead to increased wages and decreased recidivism. Read here!
Leading conservative policy group R-Street has supported Clean Slate initiatives. Read here!
Learn more about the national Clean Slate movement by reading the Clean Slate Toolkit here!
Clean Slate Bills to Support
Contact your state representative HERE!