Ep. 1 Final - Med Quality Publish.mp3
4:44AM Sep 10, 2019
Welcome to emerging state policy, an open source podcast with me Your host Spencer Cahoon. In this episode we're going to be looking at in clean slate legislation. Clean Slate legislation is legislation that looks at how to make expunged or record ceiling automatic once the person has reached a certain amount of time and meets a number of additional criteria that we're going to go into in a little bit more depth.
To give you an idea of what to expect, we're going to be hearing from Nila Bala with the R Street Institute of policy Think Tank. Jeffrey Crossman, a State of Ohio Representative and Criminal Justice Committee member and Orli Siegel with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia on the employment law team. Upon clean slate legislation, we're going to be looking at the currently an active version in Pennsylvania, the currently inactive version and Utah post version in California. And then after that, we're going to take a look at what some research based variants might look like. And we're going to look into the related research the pros in terms of back economic impact on employment, citizen impact public safety, and broad bipartisan support, and some of the cons some of the research limitations, and the potential system costs to run an automatic expunged clean slate process, and then we're going to tie it all up together. So stay tuned, and hopefully, you'll learn something new exciting about clean slate legislation. As we get into clean slate legislation, every bill every piece of legislation is there to serve a particular need. In this case, clean slate legislation affects people who have a criminal record in their past. And before we get into the individual versions in Pennsylvania, Utah and some of the proposed versions, let's take a look at what the need and on the ground impact are from this sort of legislation with Orli Siegel, from Community Legal services of Philadelphia.
Welcome to emerging state policy.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Now, before we jump into talking about clean slate legislation, I'm sure there are many of our listeners who are not familiar with you and what you do. So if you could take a moment to talk about your work in your organization.
Okay, so my name is Orli Siegel, I am a paralegal in the employment unit at Community Legal Services and Philadelphia. Mainly, I do a lot of work with the clean slate screening project, which evaluates people's eligibility for criminal records ceiling under the Clean Slate law. And I also work with people individually to get their records cleared for employment purposes.
That sounds like some really needed work. You do.
Thank you. Yeah.
So regarding record ceiling, and I believe it's called limited access and Pennsylvania. Who do you see coming in seeking this kind of relief? And why are they seeking it.
So a lot of people come in with criminal records, often very minor criminal records that are preventing them from getting hired. And some people come in because they have applied for public housing, they get denied, you know, there's a huge need for record feeling. And it's terms of the people who come in and people that I talked to, you know, spoken to a lot of people who have changed their entire career path, because they were afraid that their arrest record would keep them from doing the career that they'd always wanted to do. And I think a lot of people feel judged by an employer for having a criminal record. And that can really impact someone's entire career direct trajectory, and just in general their way of life. Another person I spoke with, has been working at a large electricity company for several years, and his job barely pays me enough money to support his two children. But he's avoided applying for higher paying positions that appeared at bill, they'll run a background check, and they'll reject him for having a criminal record.
Gotcha. Well, let me ask related to clean slate, and prior to its and certainly recently gone into effect in Pennsylvania. How did the need and demand in the community for this type of record ceiling relief compare with your agency's resources to help people through the process?
So generally, at Community Legal Services and the employment you we help people who are a certain percentage below the poverty line, and we provide free wheat free legal assistance in a number of areas, filing stealing petitions and filing expensive petitions to help them clear their records. And at least in Philadelphia, there is a huge need for it. There's a law in Philadelphia that appeal a lot of people who cannot records aren't aware of where employers aren't allowed to consider a criminal record, if it's been if it's more than seven years old. And employers can't consider non convictions ever. And a lot of people don't know that. And you know, some, some employers don't follow the law, or they don't really know how to interpret criminal record information when the background check comes back.
Now, prior to clean slate, Pennsylvania had a process for record ceiling which you were using on a regular basis, the same as many other states currently have. So tell us a little bit about what clean slate adds on top of that.
Clean Slate is basically a two pronged approach to getting your record sealed, the first part of it expands criminal record stealing. And the second thing that clean slate did was introduced what's called automatic Records, which began on June 28 2019. So the Pennsylvania courts have one year from that day to steal eligible records using an automatic computer process. The exciting thing about clean slate is the automated portion, it completely changes the way that records are sealed, the automated feeling closes what's called the second chance gap, which is the discrepancy between the number of people who are eligible for ceiling and the number of people who actually get it only 6.5% of people who are eligible for records, clearing file petitions to do so. And there are a number of reasons why that is many people can't afford the filing fees, they can't find or afford a lawyer or they're not even aware that they qualify for stealing. And now it's automatically going to get field. And this is huge benefit to that because a lot of people don't know that they even have non convictions or minor convictions on their record that is affecting their ability to obtain employment or housing, with automatic ceiling everyone qualifies for it gets it. And that means no filing fees. No time spent trying defined a lawyer and it doesn't require people to understand the law also means that we're going to see more than 30 million records field which is huge. Those are numbers that this country has never seen before.
Oh, absolutely. And I guess that's why there's a year to phase it in if you're talking about that volume of records, right?
Yeah. Well, given that it only started in June of this year, have you had a chance to see any of the effects on the ground level yet? Or is it changed the way you advise your clients with the new system?
Yeah, it's definitely changed the way we advise our clients. So we've been helping a lot of clients understand their eligibility for records dealing. You know, it only didn't go into effect two months ago, I have personally seen some of my clients records get sealed. For that for them. That means that they can go apply for jobs that they were nervous about applying for before. I'm guessing that we're going to see a lot more in terms of people being able to kind of overcome those barriers to employment and housing within the next year and beyond because it is still associated in the process.
Gotcha. Now, before I let you go,
Is there any expansion or changes to the system that Pennsylvania is put in place that you think might better serve the needs of the people you see coming in from the community?
You know, a lot of people are interested in the possibility of expanding record ceiling to encompass more serious offenses like felonies. There's a lot of support for that, but no action have necessarily been taken. But will auto feeling portion that clean slate in Pennsylvania introduced a whole new concept. It wasn't until Pennsylvania law that people really considered it.
Absolutely. Well, Orli Siegel, thank you so much for joining us today for emerging state policy.
Of course, thank you so much for having me. Now, we
have a little bit of background to understand exactly what the need is for clean slate legislation, and exactly what some of the on the ground impacts are going to be.
So let's take a look at the different versions of this bill that have been asked and at least one of them is being looked at right now. First off, we have the Pennsylvania version, in the Pennsylvania version of clean slate legislation that was passed in 2018 there they don't have a
Record expunged or ceiling they call it limited access. The bill was sponsored by both a Republican and Democratic sponsor, and had a 188 to two vote in the House, and a unanimous senate and unanimous committee votes all the way through the process. So obviously, there was pretty broad support for this in the Pennsylvania legislature.
And here's who qualifies. Anyone who received charges with a disposition that wasn't a conviction. So anyone who had their charges dismissed anyone who was arrested but not charged, anyone whose case was dropped, anyone who has found not guilty, anyone who has given maybe some sort of diversion program where they finish it up, and then no further processes pursued. Also, the person has to have a misdemeanor, level two or below. And and this is probably the critical part, the person has to have 10 years without a conviction that is punishable by one or more years. So if you get a minor misdemeanor for litter in the yard, or jaywalking or something that's not going to get in your way. But if you get something where you're punishable by one or more years, that's a little bit more serious, that's going to disqualify you. Also, the person has to have no outstanding fees or fines. So whatever case is getting cleared out by this automatic, limited access in the case of Pennsylvania. It's got to be one where they've paid all their costs. they've served their time for society, and they've paid off their costs. Now, are there exceptions? Oh, yes, all of these have exceptions. Exceptions in here, it doesn't apply to people who have danger to person offenses, domestic violence, firearms or other weapons offenses, sex offenses, cruelty to animals, corruption of minors, indecent exposure, failure to comply with registration requirements, piece of a corpse, there are a few others as well. So as you can see, there are quite a few exceptions. So they are tailoring this to just the people whose convictions they think of as sort of the least serious and the subject to limited access. Additionally, the person can't have any prior felony convictions. They can, however, have one level one misdemeanor conviction, and then this will work for up to three misdemeanor conviction. So that's who qualifies for the Pennsylvania bill. Let's look at the mechanics for a minute. Now the administration is going to be through the administrative of the Pennsylvania courts on a monthly basis. And they're going to send all the records that are appropriate for limited access to the central police repository, who presumably keeps central records in Pennsylvania. And then within 30 days of disposition and payment of costs, or within 30 days of becoming subject to court ordered limited access, and court ordered limited access. That's just like how in a lot of states, you currently have some sort of record ceiling or punishment process. Pennsylvania maintains that process, but also Institute's this automatic ceiling, clean slate process on top of that. Now, the police repository, once they get these to be purged names of people, they have 30 days to review it. And then if they think there's a mistake, the person isn't eligible, they can notify the administrator of the Pennsylvania courts. And then the administrator will will remove that record. And the person wants to go through the more formal process if they want to get something sealed. Each Common Pleas court there every month will issue a order for limited access for the eligible records. So that's the Pennsylvania version of the bill. And I shouldn't even say bill, because it's been instituted the Pennsylvania law. Obviously there are a lot of people who this is going to apply to Orli Siegel, with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia was saying that they're looking at sealing a total of about 30 million records. So it is a very large volume we're talking about here, it's not going to be easy for them to make this happen overnight. So what they're going to end up doing is they're going to phase it in with the idea being that some point in 2020, they will have caught up with the backlog, it's probably good idea if you're a legislator to consider something like that, because it is going to take some time to get caught up. And once you're caught up, of course, maintaining the system will be much easier than the initial startup for this. So that's our Pennsylvania version. Okay, so now our Utah version in Utah, they signed this bill into law March 28, of 2019. This was originally House bill for 31. And this was a republican sponsored bill in Utah, it received a completely unanimous vote in the House, a unanimous vote in the Senate, and a unanimous vote at committee meeting seemingly bipartisan, it becomes effective may of 2020. So let's look at who this one impacts. This one impacts anyone who has received an acquittal, or dismissal with prejudice conviction for a misdemeanor. If that misdemeanor is a controlled substance Class A, or a Class B or Class C, think of that like a second degree or third degree misdemeanor for many other states. And, and if you could see me you'd see the air quotes an infraction conviction, which is state specific, or traffic offense acquittals. Additionally, the total number of convictions the person has to be eligible for this clean slate record ceiling is going to be less than three convictions. If two of them are Class A misdemeanors, and they're not drug possession, and they're not in the same criminal episode. So in other words, if they're in the same criminal episode, that counts as one, to be multiple, in Utah, they have to be in different criminal episodes. Now, that was for less than three convictions, they can be less than four convictions. If three of them are no higher than Class B misdemeanors, and they're not drug possession. And or they're not in the same criminal episode. They can be less than five for anything else. And for anything else, for other states, that's going to look like 30 misdemeanors and down. And again, the Utah version is not for people with drug possession and not in the same criminal episode.
It's also considered appropriate if the person has up to three felony drug possessions. Or if the person has up to five drug possessions that are not felonies. And again, if they're not in the same criminal episode, because in Utah, same criminal episode counts as one, not a separate convictions. Okay, so we've got the conviction for the misdemeanor, total number of convictions, Utah also requires that the person have no pending criminal case sounds like a good rule. And that the time from the date that the person was adjudicated, be five years for class C misdemeanors or infractions. Think third degree misdemeanor or minor misdemeanors, six years from class be misdemeanors think. second degree misdemeanors, seven years from class A convictions for controlled substances. That's like a first degree misdemeanor. So that's who gets impacted in Utah. Let's talk mechanics for a minute. So they have to give notice to the prosecutor in Utah before experiment, the Department of Public Safety and their Judicial Council are the agencies running it. And this happens 60 days after acquittal for all charges 180 days after dismissal, if there's no appeal, and then there's a one year catch up period for old cases. So in other words, this went into effect March 28, of 2019. There's probably a ton of people who meet that five, six or seven year criteria for misdemeanor charges, and would be eligible immediately for record ceiling. But the bill is written to give a one year period for the state agencies to get the system up and running. And to get caught up to current. Just like in Pennsylvania, there's going to need to be a phase in period and it's going to take them a minute to do that. So probably a good idea to have that is part of your bill. Now there are exceptions in Utah as well. Utah makes an exception for any case where the person was found not guilty by reason of insanity. And that's an interesting one, because it's not quite a not guilty finding. It is much more like a guilty finding. In some places, they call that guilty but insane. Other states call it not guilty by reason of insanity. So in Utah, that's what they call it. And they decided to keep that out, since it is much more like a finding of guilt than it is like a finding of innocence. Anyone who has unpaid fines in Utah, no automatic ceiling, no violent offenses, no weapon offenses, no sexual battery, no acts of lewdness, no DUI, no damage or interruption of a communication device, and no domestic violence. And critically, and here's something that is very different from the Utah version compared to the Pennsylvania version, they put in a right for the prosecutor to object, the prosecutor gets a 35 day notice. And if the prosecutor thinks the case is not eligible, or that restitution has not been paid in full to the victim, or if the prosecutor has reasonable belief of subsequent crimes that took place by that person outside the state, for any of those reasons, the prosecutor can object. And if the prosecutor objects, the record does not get automatically sealed. Just like Pennsylvania, there is a process for sealing records manually, you could say where the person applies, and the person can still apply if the record is not sealed automatically. But obviously, that's a lot harder, many less records are sealed in that manner. So this is one more way that the automatic ceiling can be stopped through the prosecutor exercising their power. It's an interesting provision. One worth thinking about, but not necessarily one that's critical to making the clean slate legislation work the way it's intended.
So that's Utah, let's talk California. Now California hasn't passed, there's, but they have put out a full bill. And there's been committee hearings on it some debate back and forth, and a fair amount of writing. So it's a nice one to look at to see what another state with a slightly different philosophical slant and their state legislature is doing with us. Unsurprisingly, the California version is sponsored by Democrats instead of Republicans, because California. So who qualifies, this would go into effect, assuming it's passed at the beginning of 2021. And it will only apply to people with convictions from 1973 forward. That's an interesting clause that I haven't seen any other bills. And that's a way of limiting the workload that clerks and the other people involved in this are going to have to do the catch up. Because if you make it to the beginning of history, obviously you're talking about a huge volume of criminal records. 1973. Well, at that point, you're talking almost 50 years ago, there probably aren't a whole lot of people being haunted by misdemeanors from 50 years ago. So probably a reasonable clause, but different than the other bills. It also requires that the person have a misdemeanor, or have some sort of charge that was dismissed, misdemeanor arrest, with no prosecution, and one year since the date of arrest, or that the person has an acquittal, or they include felonies punishable by county jail time instead of prison that are non violent and non sexual in nature. Additionally, if there were no proceedings on a felony like that, and three years since the arrested, not every state has the equivalent of that, but I know at least one or maybe a couple other states have state jail felonies, something that's a little bit less than your standard prison sentence. But a little bit more than your standard misdemeanor, and it is served in jail instead of prison. That's something that California is going to be sweeping in assuming this version passes. It also will require a successful completion of pre filing diversion, drug diversion, pre trial diversion, some other sort of diversion program or a probation. And that's for people who are getting these diversion programs or probation instead of conviction, you finish that it's considered like a conviction in terms of being able to be sealed. Now, if it's a misdemeanor sentence, and at least one year has passed, since the disposition dates, those are going to get swept in as well. And it will not apply to anyone who is a registered sex offender. Anyone who is still on active supervision, anyone who is currently serving a sentence, anyone who has pending criminal charges, or anyone who served state prison time, although there are some exceptions written into that. Put another way, in terms of how many other states will see it, they exclude anyone who has served felony time. Now the mechanics for it or not that dissimilar from the other states. There is a weekly review that takes place by the Department of Justice, they identify the eligible persons from state summary criminal data, it's in a statewide database in that state. And then they provide notice to the Superior Court that had jurisdiction over the original criminal case, the court keeps that private that they don't disclose who has been identified as eligible by the DOJ. Though there are certain exceptions, as there always are, if relief is granted, in other words, if it's automatically sealed, then there will be a note added to the statewide criminal database. That will note that so anyone who has access to that database will be able to see that this has been something that has been sealed by clean slate. Additionally, it requires the DOJ to maintain that summary criminal history information probably seems like a good idea in general. Now, there are exceptions. And I should mention, all of these states in different areas of their statute tend to have exceptions to what this ceiling actually covers expunged, that means it's gone forever, it's gone completely record ceiling or limited access, when as Pennsylvania terms that are all something less where most people can't get at it. But some people can in the California bill, they put it directly in that bill. So I'm going to read there's but for reference, the other states do have things like this as well. In California, anyone who's looking for police employments, they're still going to be able to see their own criminal records seems reasonable. Anyone who is applying for public office, anyone who has a subsequent criminal case, and the prosecutor would like to use their criminal history for enhancement purposes. If there is a post conviction petition that's filed later on that case, the court can see those records and those records can be opened. And the prosecutor can file 90 days prior to relief for new cases, not for old cases in California. But new cases that will be subject to ceiling. Within 90 days, prosecutor can file saying hey, there's a problem.
You shouldn't steal this record for reason x. And then the record will not be automatically sealed. Just like the Utah version of that. It is still something that is potentially eligible for individual application based ceiling, but not something that would be awesome, medically covered in clean slate. So they write that same sort of prosecutor escape valve into their legislation. All right now they come up with some interesting facts in the California piece that I'm going to throw out real quick just because they're fascinating. They estimate that each petition for record ceiling that is manually processed in California, cost $3,757. Now, they don't have a clear breakdown of where that estimate comes from. But presumably, judges time, bailiffs time clerk of courts time, the defendants time, the prosecutors time, the other required court personnel to make things run the victim if you're bringing them in. And that probably doesn't include the cost the defendant is paying to have an attorney to represent them. So $3,757 per application under the current system cost to the state. They note that 92% of employers subject their applicants to criminal background checks, and four out of five landlords use them. These stats are interesting, because it shows this is part of what California was thinking about when it passed. Well, I shouldn't say passed, as it's considering its version of the bill. Now, there is some opposition. Despite those facts, they note that the 90 day notice provision to the prosecutor doesn't work on probation. Because in the situation where a person is still on probation, and where they would be subject to record ceiling immediately when probation finishes. A person on probation could get a violation up until the last day of probation. At any of those times, if they do something against the rules, they're looking at a violation. Consequently, that 90 day notice doesn't help because the prosecutor might not find out that a record shouldn't be sealed until one day before it's about to be sealed. Obviously, that's an easy policy fix, you just change your 90 day period to start when it runs from the end of supervision. For people who are on supervision during this period, the prosecutors in California say that in general, it's going to be a pain to keep track of. Now, that's is sort of an artifact of the way this legislation is made. The Pennsylvania legislation doesn't have any escape bell for prosecutors. Consequently, it will not be any harder for prosecutors in Pennsylvania, but the Utah version, the potential California version, because they write that in, that does create some additional burden on prosecutors. Now, maybe it's a burden prosecutors want, maybe it isn't. But that's something that if you are looking at in your state, you should contact prosecuting attorney Association, whatever they might call that in your state, see whether they want that or not. Alright, last but not least, I'm going to do a really quick hit on federal legislation. Because anyone who's looking around for this may see that there have been federal clean slate acts proposed multiple times. In fact, however, those are nowhere near as comprehensive as what we're talking about at the state level. Those have been just targeting drug and marijuana offenses, and those being for acquittals and arrest only not for convictions. So really what has been proposed at the federal level is very, very different than what we're seeing at the state levels. But if anyone asks about that, don't get confused, it's really a completely different animal. Now that we've looked into the details of what the states are doing, let's take a minute to talk with policy organization and see what the people who spend their time looking at the research and thinking about these kinds of issues, or thinking that the states should be doing. We're happy to have with us today, nella Bala, the Associate Director of criminal justice and civil liberties at the R street Institute. Thank you for joining us today.
Thank you so much for having me. And if you could tell me
just a bit about the R Street Institute, as I suspect a number of our listeners probably are not familiar with the organization.
Sure, the R Street Institute is a public policy organization is based in Washington, DC, although we do have offices across the country as well. The institute itself actually works on a number of different areas, including energy, insurance, harm reduction, the area that I work in is a criminal justice. And so our goals are to try to advocate for smart policy in the criminal justice arena. And specifically, one of the areas I work in is reentry policy. So the policies that govern and assist people as they are exiting jails and prisons.
Gotcha. So this clean slate legislation is right on par with that?
as something you've been looking at how have you been involved with clean state legislation to this point,
I first got into this work actually as a public defender, both in Santa Clara County, California, as well as Baltimore City. And in both of those places, I actually performed a number of records dealings and experiments both for young people as well as adults. And I just saw the tremendous benefit that it could have on people's lives when they were able to close a chapter of their life and move on from that.
Great, so you've actually had the opportunity to see it both from the policy side as well as from on the ground.
Absolutely. And that definitely informed a lot of my policy recommendations because I know how challenging it can be to navigate the system, from working with my clients. And most of the individuals who are in the criminal justice system or are trying to a clean slate afterwards are often indigent. Individuals who don't have a lot of money, who don't have a lot of resources and are trying to figure out sometimes a very cumbersome process for clearing their records. And just to be clear, when we say clearing records, we're not we're not talking necessarily just about convictions, we're talking even about arrest or not guilty, or cases where the person case was completely dismissed. And yet, they still have a criminal record. And it's still holding them back.
I think too many people listening, the criminal justice system may seem very distant from their experience, and they might not know anyone who's been personally impacted by it. So how many people could potentially be impacted because they have some sort of criminal record?
It's funny that you say that most people probably don't know someone with a criminal record, because I venture to guess that, that you actually do know somebody with a criminal record, given the numbers. But of course, it's something people probably don't want to advertise. So the estimates are between 70 million and 100 million Americans, that's one in three that have some type of criminal record. Wow. Yeah, it's pretty bad. So if you're talking about a third of Americans, that's that's like a lot of people. But like I said, that criminal record can really vary. For some of these individuals, that might just be an arrest, a lot of people might just have an arrest with with a no further prosecution. And then there might be people with, you know, of course, longer rap sheets. And so when you ask the question of who's affected by clean slate legislation, or punishments, it's not going to be all those individuals, because most exposure and policies don't, for example, say that a person can get a clean slate after, you know, committing a serious felony or rape or murder, of course, but there's a good number of those people who will benefit from this kind of policy.
You recently wrote an article for the New Haven register, noting that these criminal records can carry serious economic costs. So what kind of impact are we talking about on the states from this?
There's huge impacts economically, I mean, you can look at it from a couple of different perspective, there's the perspective of the individual who themselves has a criminal record, they're very impacted, because it's very difficult for them to get a job. When they do get jobs. They say, under employment, a criminal record reduces a job seekers chance of getting a callback or job offer by nearly 50%. So it's an enormous impact. And then it percolates out from there. So the individuals families, of course, expected because when they can't get a job, they might have difficulty with housing with, you know, helping their children, even keeping their children it can affect of course custody. And then it has economic impacts on the state because we know what people are employed and their consumers in our market, it affects our economy. So communities benefit when individuals are fully employed, because they can be full consumers.
Okay, well, let's transition from there, you have the opportunity to look at the research and look at some of the different state practices. And if you are in the position to be able to speak directly to a legislator who is looking at introducing a clean slate bill, what type of clean slate legislation would you recommend based on that knowledge and research and why?
Here, the first thing I would say is the initial period when somebody is released from jail or prison is incredibly important, we know that if they are able to get some kind of employment right away, that can be really helpful. And so for the lowest level things, I mean, like I said, especially if it's not a conviction, there should be something in place that considers the possibility of having it expunged automatically. In most places, there's a very long waiting period. For some things, we might want there to be a waiting period, because we want people to show that they're able to live a crime free life. But I think that the waiting period should be structured, so that the more serious offenses are the ones that take longer to expunge, and that there are ways to expunge some things more quickly. The other thing that's enormously effective, and all the research shows us is some automatic expansion, we know that individuals have a great deal of difficulty, first of all, and knowing that something is even able to be cleaned off of their record, then the second piece is actually accessing the court system, paying the fees, filling out the forms often is so complicated that you need an attorney to help you with this whole process. And access to justice is an enormous issue, along with thinking through the waiting periods, I would definitely want to lower the cost. So there are costs, I mean, in some states that can cost 500 600 $700 to clean your slate, and those are enormous prices for individuals. And so we need to increase user access, we reduce costs, and just include more offenses under the expendable umbrella. Like I said, a lot of states just will only expunge the most minimal of things like things that, of course, seems like a no brainer. Non conviction records not guilty. But we should give people a second chance even when they have committed, you know, misdemeanors and even some felonies because people can change. I mean, that's that's sort of, to me part of the American dream that we we think that people are capable of more they're capable of changing and they're capable of growing and our law should recognize that.
Absolutely. And to sum up what you're saying and tell me if I have this wrong. It seems like this is a change. That is not a government regulation. It's not a subsidy. It supports business and the free markets. And it literally gets government regulation out of people's way to allow them to get jobs and be productive members of society.
Absolutely. I mean, R Street is coming from a center right libertarian perspective. And we completely support this policy as you focus on the left, because it's absolutely a no brainer, it's it is about limited government, it is about government being efficacious. And at this point, having criminal records that are you know, 10 2030 years old, laying people down, it doesn't just hurt them and hurt public safety. Because we know when individuals aren't employed, when they aren't able to be consumers in the economy, they're actually more likely to resort to crime. So it's just smart policy smart. You're looking at it from an economic lens. And it's smart, if you're looking at it from a public safety lens. And it's definitely smart, if you're looking at it from an individual dignity perspective of that individual who's impacted.
The scalar, thank you so much for joining us, this was very helpful. And thank you for sharing the perspective of both yourself and the R Street Institute.
Absolutely, thank you so much for having me.
Okay, now that we've seen what the states are doing, let's talk a little bit about a research based variants. Now, this is just taking the policies of state have made, and then adjusting them a little bit to reflect what the research is showing. So who cover obviously, it should cover people were there was only an arrest, no prosecution, or the case was dismissed, or it was found not guilty. And those things should be done as soon as possible, just like you were hearing from R Street, there's no reason to hold up on those, you don't want someone to get denied for a job, because they were arrested and released for something that never came to anything. So those should get done as fast as possible. Doesn't matter if it's a misdemeanor or felony, because at the end of the day, it's nothing the person hasn't been convicted. Now, for felonies, this is where it gets interesting. So the research, there was a recent Michigan study that shows that once the person has been about five years out from criminal conduct, so the person had a felony conviction, they serve their time, they get out there living a normal life, it's been five years since their release dates. The Michigan study shows that there's only a 1% risk of felony recidivism at that time, which means about 99 people out of 100 are not going to get a new felony conviction. That sounds pretty safe to me. And that's what the people in the study thought as well. They do note that there if you measure not just felony recidivism, but whether the person might get a misdemeanor conviction or a felony conviction, it jumps up from 1% to 4%. However, that's still 96 people out of 100, who are not going to run into any problem at all, and three out of 100, who are going to run into maybe a minor misdemeanor issue. So five years is a point you might want to cut if you are going to do automatic ceiling for felony records. Now, alternatively, there is a scarlet letter study, as well as information from R Street that notes that at about six to seven years out, the risk level of people who are coming out with felony offenses is roughly comparable to the risk level of people who have never had an offense. In other words, their risk of committing new offenses has gone down to the baseline, meaning they're no more risky than any other person on the street. So that's a kind of obvious point where if you want to be a little more conservative, six or seven years, puts you in a safer place for limiting recidivism even further. However, there is University of Maryland study that has a higher date, that notes that the risk is equal to the risk you have in the general population. Instead of finding that six to seven year figure. They find that to be about 10 years, to 13 years depending upon the type of offense. So 10 years would be more than cut that would be recommended by that study. But what that does mean is even for felony crime, and this includes violent crime, in fact, a number of these studies have specifically looked at violent crime versus drug crime versus property crime. The U Maryland study found that your risk of new arrest goes down to 10%, meaning only one out of 10 people would have any sort of problem for violent crime in seven years. And for drug or property crime in four years. So if you were going to make a tiered system for felonies in your state, you would might want to set up a separate tier for violence, which would be at the top points, and then another tier for drug and property or drug and then separately for property. Because that same you Maryland's study notes that the risk rate goes down to 3%. For violent offenders and 11 years, drug offenders 10 years, property offenders in eight years. So again, that would be suggesting a tiered system might be more appropriate.
Now, that's felony con, all these that we've been looking at so far have looked at just misdemeanor conduct. So what do we have for misdemeanor, most of the research doesn't really break down misdemeanor versus felony conduct, the limited amount that does the Michigan study notes that after five years, there's a 4% recidivism chance of misdemeanor or felony conduct put together. So five years seems like a completely reasonable cut off or misdemeanors based on that. But again, the research on misdemeanors specifically is lacking. Now, there are some exceptions, multiple cases do increase recidivism risk. The studies have found that that tops out around four cases. And as I've already noted, people with violent offenses are more likely to reoffend than people without violent offenses. So on the research, if you were to make a variance from that, you might want to have tiered structures for violent drug property offenses. If you were going to break it down, you would want somewhere between a five to 10 year period for felony offenses, probably no more than five year period for misdemeanor offenses. And you might want to have something that looks at it differently for people who have multiple cases, versus people who just have a single case.
Let's talk about what we're actually getting out of this type of policy, there's going to be an economic impact. That's probably the main thing. That's your headliner, unemployment. research notes that 34% of unemployed men have a record and review of approximately 200,000, Virginia job ads showed that only 8.2% of them would accept an applicant who had a criminal record. What does that mean? Looking at what adds about 92% of people turn somebody away for a criminal record. And if you're talking about roughly one third of unemployed people who have a record, well, then that means 92% of jobs that these people might hypothetically be able to apply for, we know offhand are going to turn them away. We know that expansion improves employment chances by roughly 7%. And that is for people at the individual level, it leads to wage increases of roughly 25%. And that's not for people who have already applied to jobs and have already been hired and are working full time. This is primarily growth, from unemployed people going to work, and from underemployed people getting more stable work. So in other words, the people we want to help most in the labor pool, this is literally who that's impact. This is going to mean and improve tax base for states. And it's a cheaper system than job training programs. But it has a similar impact on getting unemployed people and underemployed people into jobs. So that's unemployment. In terms of business. Well, in Utah, where they've passed this, Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, said that this would be a huge workforce driver is currently nine in 10. Employers use background checks. Now about background checks. Employers often are concerned about potential liability, if they hire somebody who's a criminal offense, there's always the concern in the employers mind. If that person does something new, that's a crime, and it affects my consumers, then are those people going to be able to sue me, by taking this out of the hands of employers to review with you, we're also taking away that liability, because that liability attaches only when the employer knows about it, it's you knew this person had a criminal record, you hired them anyway, you put me at risk. By taking that out of the employers hands, you empower the employer to actually hire the person they want to hire, without making them worry about lawsuits. So it's good from an employer's perspective, which is why the Chamber of Commerce was behind it in Utah, the Pennsylvania Chamber of business and industry noted, and I quote, we have a workforce problem in this Commonwealth and this country, we have a large number of jobs without people to fill them. And we do have people without jobs, how do we make a system to break those barriers down, we sleep clean slate as a way to do that. It gives employers color to take the step and hire someone who is going out and trying to improve themselves, unquote. So literally, they're saying exactly the same thing. I was just saying that this is good for employers, because it reduces their concern about incurring legal liability for hiring somebody who has a prior criminal record. And in terms of potential system savings, because California estimates it costs $3,757 within the system to clear each record. Obviously, this is going to be much cheaper on a per record cost, because you're primarily automating the process. Now let's look at GDP. Because everybody always likes to talk GDP when you're talking economic impact. estimates are that it is 78 to $87 billion in lost us productivity. So that's a huge number, that's a billion with a be lots of money. And that means since we have less than 78 to 87 states, really you're looking at roughly a billion or billions of dollars for any given state, depending upon how large your state is in reference to the whole country. One example, because I ran the numbers for Ohio, Ohio, given where they sit would be looking at a $2.69 billion gain, if they could get rid of this productivity bar from criminal records. Now, of course, this is never going to be eliminated completely. Because there's some criminal records we want to keep no one's saying we should get rid of all the criminal records. But for the ones that we think, are not doing us any good, why not regain that economic productivity, maybe you don't get $2.69 billion Ohio, but you get a big chunk of money. And it still might be an amount in the billions. So definitely something to think about. So that's the economic and the citizen impact. Different states have found that only between 3% to six and a half percent of people who are eligible for current record ceiling laws, or punishments, use it. Now there are a lot of different reasons for that, it can be costly, a lot of people don't understand the legal process. If you have to hire a lawyer that's out of reach for many people. Again, we're talking about impact on people who are unemployed and underemployed. These are people who don't necessarily have large amounts of free funds sitting around. So now you're taking something that's only utilized a single digit percentage of the time making it automatic, that means it's going to be utilized in the high 90s. So you're going to have a lot more impact on your citizens. Stats note that about half of children have at least one parent with a criminal record. That means that if you're clearing those criminal records and empowering those parents to go back to work, you are also supporting child welfare, because the people who are paying the bills at home for those children are the same people this is going to impact. So children benefits 25% wage improvement is going to help stabilize at risk families. So that means someone where there's five financial conflict, breaking a couple of parts, maybe that's going to ease that maybe that's going to keep that family together, and other people who are at risk of losing their children, or who don't have primary custody and have Child Support obligations. You're empowering people to meet those obligations, you're empowering people to pay for the things they need to make sure they keep custody of their children in the first place. So this is a good thing for child welfare. Also, it will support broader access to housing. Four out of five landlords use background checks. That means if suddenly criminal records of this type are not showing up on background checks, just like with businesses, you're going to empower landlords to rent to people who had a criminal record that's been sealed, without the landlord worrying about liability from that. And obviously, if there are areas that you have concerns about people with violent offenses, sex offenses, whatever it might be in your state, there are exemptions and every one of these state versions. So that's the impact on your citizens, public safety. Now, this stat, I find this just staggering. People with one year of work, are 70% less likely to new crimes 70%. That's crazy to me. And here's the one that really makes it insane. Not only that, but people with even 30 days of work. That reduces the risk of recidivism by 62%. So even somebody who doesn't have a full year of work who has a less stable job, even someone who just has a little bit of part time job here and there, their risk of recidivism goes down 62%. so empowering people to get more jobs means you are going to have a significant public safety impact 70% reduced risk of new crimes with one year of work 62% reduced risk with 30 days of work, man, those are just staggering numbers in terms of reducing risk of new criminal conduct. Now, that's all the positive research. Let's talk about the cons for a minute. There are some limitations. As I said previously, most of this research does not break down felony versus misdemeanor conduct. That means from a practical reality, the states only have limited guidance on what works for misdemeanors. So the tools we see saying somewhere between the five and 10 year range, that's including felony conduct. So if you're taking that out, one might presume that a shorter period would be appropriate for people with misdemeanors. But again, the research is really hasn't dug in on that. Additionally, the research because it studies people who are using the current experiment tools, the people who are applying now are most likely the people think they see the greatest personal benefit in getting their records expunged. Consequently, the effects, like the increase on wages, the increase on bringing people back to work, they might actually be a bit more muted when it's distributed much more broadly in society through an automatic process. And that's going to be the limitation of any research on this right now, because you are stuck system we are currently, one thing that also hasn't been looked at in much depth is the cost of the system to run. Obviously, on a per record basis, it is going to be much much cheaper than the current system, an automated system is still going to require personnel hours to run an overall this cost could be similar or hypothetically even greater than current cost, since so many more records will be affected. And as far as I know, there are no researcher estimates on what the overall system costs for this to be processed will be. The more it's automated, the more it's done by computers and email notices and things that are sent out automatically, the cheaper it's going to be. The more escape valves you write into it's noticed prosecutors prosecutor chance to object, the more expensive it's going to be because the more it starts to look like the non automated version. So those are things to keep in mind. And some of the cons are the limitations of research.
No discussion of potential legislation would be complete without speaking with someone actually working on the legislative side of things. Today we have with a state of Ohio house representative Jeffrey Crossman, also a member of the criminal justice committee in that state representative Crossman, welcome to emerging state policy. Thank you. How are you today? I'm doing well. Thank you. Now for anyone who might not be familiar with you. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your district?
Yes, well, I am an attorney by trade. That done very much criminal practice, of course by practicing on civil side. But I've been a practicing attorney since 2001, and was elected to the State House or from the Ohio's 15th district which represents Parma, Ohio, which is the seventh largest city in state of Ohio, also my district and encompasses portions of Cleveland heights, Brooklyn Heights, so compact district here up in the pretty well populated areas of state of Ohio, and my first test term started in January.
Well, today we've been talking about clean slate legislation. And what is it that's interest DU in clean slate legislation? Or what brought it to your attention?
Well, quite frankly, you know, I deal with a lot of other attorneys in the community. And the best ideas come from practitioners that have experience in navigating their clients through some of the challenges that they have post conviction, you know, it started as an idea really involving juvenile reform, been been looking at a lot of things we can do to make lives better for juveniles getting out of the system and getting on the right track to becoming productive adults. Absolutely. Getting out of the criminal justice system. So that's where it started. And then I saw what's going on in Pennsylvania and Utah, some other states that are looking at clean slate legislation, you know, it was really encouraging to see that this issue is not divided along political lines. But there are supporters among different political parties different, you know, interest groups. And so that gave me sort of the idea of maybe broadening the focus beyond juveniles and really taking a look at this clean slate legislation and moving it forward and state of Ohio.
That sounds great. Now, do you have any of your constituents had experiences that you see as someone who would benefit from this type of legislation?
Well, based on the research, and I'm sure you've covered a lot of this in, in your episode here, that by a third of Americans across the country had some criminal conviction. And, you know, my most recent stint as Assistant General Counsel for the local real estate company with apartment buildings, I can tell you, and we do screen as many landlords do for criminal background, that presents a barrier for folks, obviously. So to the extent that we can remove barriers, to housing to employment, that's the real goal here is to make sure that people have an opportunity to gain that second chance that we all get America want people to have, people should pay their dues. But we do want I think in America, we do believe that people should have opportunities at second chances. So that's kind of where this all began, that ends for me is this whole interest of opening doors for people because there is such such a number of people out there that have low level misdemeanor charges out there on the records, and it does present annoyance or embarrassment, all the way to being denied enough to have a job does he have to check a box of employment application.
I think that's the same experience, people are having it in all the states across the country.
And, you know, even I've had a criminal charge in the past of the misdemeanor, you know, I was not a perfect use by any measure. And you know, I had my running, run in and get caught up in a misdemeanor charge. And, you know, for me, it was more of an annoyance and embarrassment than anything, and I did get it expunged, years later. So I am familiar with the process, I had to get an attorney, I'd pay them money, I had to go to a court hearing for a very, very low minor misdemeanor charge. And so, you know, obviously, as those charges escalates, cost, the burdens the barriers become more difficult to get that charged, removed. You know, I was fortunate and obviously went to college, graduate Law School graduate, those opportunities for me were available, you know, even after I had this criminal charge out there, I can only imagine folks that don't have those advantages, trying to navigate the system and trying to figure out ways to remove a barrier to employment and housing. Having this personal experience definitely helps inform, you know, my decision to move forward with this type of legislation.
Now, as a legislator, you're in a unique position. Unlike the other guests that we've had from policy, think tanks and agencies working with record ceiling on the ground, you get to work directly with the legislative process. So what advice would you give to other legislators who are considering sponsoring or voting for clean slate bills?
I'd say do the homework. I think there's a lot of interest groups out there, they've done a very nice job of providing the information on what means to remove these barriers, what the risk of removing these charges are, which is pretty low level, depending on how you structure this and we're not talking about expunging violent felonies, I think they've done a really good job of making the case. So I would encourage legislators to examine those pieces of information, the evidence out there that has been gathered in support of this type of legislation, because I think it's very compelling. And I think that the argument speaks for itself and why it makes a lot of sense to do this.
Well, perfect. Thank you so much. Well, we'll be watching for Bill coming down the road representative Crossman, thank you for your time and for joining us today on emerging state policy. Thank you for your time, looking at the political reality for this kind of Bill. One thing that's fascinating about this, is there's broad support. Today, we live in an age of hyper partisanship, and people are always saying we're as divided as we've ever been. But this is something when surveyed has 70% overall based support. Now, obviously, there's a bit of a split between Democratic voters and Republican voters. Democrats, when surveyed support this about 75%, three out of four people, Republicans supported 66%, two out of three people. Now, you might note, even 66% is a super majority. So we're really talking broad bipartisan support here. And when you look at some of the breakdowns, from these studies, people agreeing that the main goal of the criminal justice system should be to ensure appropriate punishment, instead of rehabilitation. 71% of those people support clean slate legislation, people who think that crime victims have to live with consequences of their crimes throughout their lives. So people who commit the crime should have to suffer the consequences of those crimes throughout their lives as well. In other words, people who are focused on the punishment side of that 72% of those people support clean slate legislation. So we've got these really high numbers. And here's one thing that is fascinating about that. People who oppose, so the 30 percent of people who are not on board of those 30% 30% of them flip when they find out that sealed records are still available to law enforcement and the courts in the case of future crimes, and 29%. More people also flip, if there are told that automatic ceiling reduces court workloads and saves taxpayer money. So when you put that together, if you have those elements in your legislation, you're looking at about 87.7% support. And that is just a astonishingly high number in today's age. There is also a great organizational coalition behind this already. There are 25 organizations from across the aisle, conservative liberal and everything in between. You've got Koch Industries to the Center for American Progress. And that survey research that I was just citing you that's from the Center for American Progress. There are multiple think tanks focused on free markets and reduce government role, who are all in favor of this, you heard from the students to today, also the American Conservative union Foundation, fair and just prosecution rights on crime. And they look specifically for conservative solutions on crime. And the seminar network, which was founded by Charles Koch, and the Koch brothers political network has put out a press release. They're going to be using their political network to help get this message out and go state by state help get people the information they need to set up clean slate bills in their states. I hope you found our discussion of clean slate legislation today helpful. I hope that it will help you in your state's determine if this is the kind of bill that you or your representative should be pursuing. Thank you so much for tuning into emerging state policy, an open source podcast being an open source podcast. That means you may reuse any or all portions of this podcast without permission just to please drop us a line. If you decide to use portions of this podcast, just so we can know where our exposure is going to. You can drop us a line at Spencer j Cahoon on Twitter. Please rate us on iTunes, Google Play stitcher or Spotify. Special thanks to Nick Allen for music composition. And soon we hope to have web page up so that we can drop show notes with direct links to the studies and the different research we talked about in this podcast. Thank you so much for tuning into emerging state policy.