Racial Equity in Eligibility for a Clean Slate under Automatic Criminal Record Relief Laws

Mooney, A.C., Skog, A., Lerman, A.E. (2022). Racial Equity in Eligibility for a Clean Slate under Automatic Criminal Record Relief Laws. Law and Society Review, 56(3). DOI:10.1111/lasr.12625.

46 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2022 Last revised: 4 Aug 2022

See all articles by Alyssa Mooney

Alyssa Mooney

University of California, San Francisco

Alissa Skog

University of California, Berkeley

Amy Lerman

University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: June 16, 2022

Abstract

States have begun to pass legislation to provide automatic relief for eligible criminal records, potentially reducing the lifelong collateral consequences of criminal justice involvement. Yet numerous historical examples suggest that racially neutral policies can have profoundly disparate effects across racial groups. In the case of criminal record relief, racial equity in eligibility for a clean slate has not yet been examined. We find that in California, one in five people with convictions met criteria for full conviction relief under the state’s automatic relief laws. Yet the share of Black Americans eligible for relief was lower than white Americans, reproducing racial disparities in criminal records. We identify two policy amendments that would reduce the share of Black men in California with convictions on their criminal records from 22% to 9%, thereby narrowing the difference compared to white men from 15 to seven percentage points. Put another way, an additional one in seven Black men currently has a conviction record, compared to their white counterparts. This would decline to an additional one in 14 if both hypothetical policy amendments were incorporated. We close with discussion of criminal history data quality limitations, which pose a second key challenge to equitable implementation of automatic criminal record relief reforms nationwide.

Keywords: criminal record, clean slate laws, expungement, racial equity

Suggested Citation

Mooney, Alyssa and Skog, Alissa and Lerman, Amy, Racial Equity in Eligibility for a Clean Slate under Automatic Criminal Record Relief Laws (June 16, 2022). Mooney, A.C., Skog, A., Lerman, A.E. (2022). Racial Equity in Eligibility for a Clean Slate under Automatic Criminal Record Relief Laws. Law and Society Review, 56(3). DOI:10.1111/lasr.12625., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4137869 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4137869

Alyssa Mooney (Contact Author)

University of California, San Francisco

Institute for Health Policy Studies
490 Illinois St.
San Francisco, CA 94158
United States

Alissa Skog

University of California, Berkeley

Amy Lerman

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

2607 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720-7320
United States

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