Groundbreaking Empirical Study of Expungement
Date:  03-23-2019

Expungement recipients "have extremely low subsequent crime rates"
From Collateral Consequence Resource Center:

Professors Sonja B. Starr and J.J. Prescott of Michigan Law School have released the first-ever broad-based empirical study of the effects of a state law limiting public access to criminal records. CCRC’s reports have noted the lack of empirical research to inform policies aimed at promoting reentry and reintegration for people with a criminal record—something this study of Michigan’s set-aside law begins to correct. As its authors observe, “Despite the considerable legislative ferment and the excitement that surrounds ‘clean slate’ initiatives in the civil rights and criminal justice reform worlds, what has been missing from the debate is hard evidence about the effects and true potential of conviction expungement laws.” A reason for this, as the authors also note, is that by definition criminal records that are the subject of sealing or expungement relief are often unavailable to study.

Using a data-sharing agreement with multiple Michigan state agencies, Starr and Prescott completed an extensive statewide analysis of expungement of criminal convictions in Michigan over the course of decades. Their analysis reveals three key findings:

  • Uptake: Just 6.5% of those eligible for expungement successfully complete Michigan’s application process within five years of eligibility.

  • Recidivism: Expungement recipients “have extremely low subsequent crime rates, comparing favorably to the general population—a finding that defuses a common public-safety objection to expungement laws.”

  • Employment: Expungement receipts see a “sharp upturn” in wage and employment: wages go up on average by 25% within two years, driven mostly by “unemployed people finding jobs and very minimally employed people finding steadier or higher-paying work.” Continue reading >>>