Pro Bono: Criminal Record Expungement Policy


Cornerstone Research developed a model and analysis for state-level costs and benefits of adopting an automated record-clearing policy.

The Clean Slate Initiative is a national bipartisan organization advocating for state-level policies that automatically clear eligible criminal records. Cornerstone Research worked with the Clean Slate Initiative and its affiliates to document and model the potential individual and societal costs and benefits realized by states that pass automatic record clearing laws.

Many individuals carry criminal records that can limit their access to jobs, education, and housing, increasing the likelihood of sustained poverty and stress on them and their families. Many of these criminal records, particularly for minor misdemeanors or non-conviction arrests, are eligible for expungement, but they often remain intact because the typical expungement process is time-consuming and costly.

Automated record-clearing policies remove the barriers to expungement. Using publicly available data and findings from academic research, Cornerstone Research built a model to approximate the state-level costs and benefits of adopting an automated record-clearing policy, accounting for:

  • Costs of centralizing the collection of county-level records, digitizing criminal records, buying new equipment, and hiring employees trained to implement and monitor an automated system, among other factors;
  • Benefits from higher levels of employment and earnings, lower recidivism, and reduced administrative costs of case-by-case clearing, as well as other individual and societal gains.

The Clean Slate Initiative will use our model and analysis to encourage legislatures to adopt automatic record-clearing processes for certain crimes.

For more information on this matter, contact Dina Older Aguilar.