Record Clearing (Expungement)

The Problem: Direct evidence establishes that the existence of a criminal record, even a record devoid of convictions, constitutes an impediment to stable housing and employment. Public and private employers and landlords deny opportunities to justice-involved individuals. They deny opportunities overtly, and all of these denials are legal. Some are even compelled by law.

August 27, 2019

Record Clearing

The Study

Does criminal record expungement induce stabilization of housing and employment with concomitant reductions in recidivism? Should oversubscribed legal services providers dedicate their scarce resources to meeting the vast demand for assistance in obtaining an expungement under state law?

A two-site randomized control trial will assign individuals eligible for expungement under state law to different levels of service (self-help materials or attorney representation) from oversubscribed legal services providers. If, as anticipated, expungement outcomes differ based on service level, the study will employ an instrumental variables design to infer the effect of expungement on recidivism, housing stability, and employment.

There is no clear evidence of the effect of record-clearing on recidivism. Further, there are no studies based in randomized field operations that show the effectiveness of record-clearing on housing stability outcomes. This study will show those effects. In addition to demonstrating the direct effects of expungement, having an interstate multi-site study will allow for a clearer picture of the impact of expungement-related legislation.

The Research Team

Jim Greiner, Faculty Director, Access to Justice Lab; Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Renee Danser, Associate Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships, Access to Justice Lab