Position-Clean Slate Initiative
September 14, 2023
The Missouri legislature should pass Clean Slate legislation which will provide for automated expungement of eligible non-violent and non-sexual offense records of:
- people who were formerly incarcerated but have committed no criminal offenses in a set number of years following release from prison
- people who were charged with crimes but not convicted.
As of summer 2023, twelve US states have passed Clean Slate laws. (1)
In 2019 1.9 million Missourians had criminal records. (3,4,5)
In 2021 13,214 Missourians were released from prison and returned to our cities and communities. (6)
Criminal records are impediments to employment (90% of employers screen out those with criminal records) and housing (80% of landlords screen out applicants with criminal records.) (2,5,7)
Unemployment often leads to recidivism. Families and communities suffer when large numbers of people are prevented from fully re-entering society and contributing economically.
Under the current system, the expungement process is expensive and time consuming. In 2019 only 1% of those eligible were able to have their records expunged. (3,4,5) If the Missouri legislature passes Clean Slate, the expungement process will be automated for those who are eligible.
In Missouri and elsewhere there is bi-partisan support for Clean Slate. (2)
Our Advocacy Points
The economy will benefit when qualified job seekers are able to enter the labor force. Missouri needs more workers.
There is evidence from other states that recidivism declines significantly when people are able to gain employment after criminal records are expunged. (8,9,10,11) Missouri will save taxpayer dollars when the cycle of incarceration is interrupted and more people are brought into the workforce.
Criminal records of an adult can sentence families to poverty. Housing stability of the family can be threatened when a formerly incarcerated individual with a record returns to the household. The inability of formerly incarcerated parents to contribute financially weakens families.
(1) New York Becomes 12th State to Pass ‘Clean Slate’ Record Sealing, The Clean Slate Initiative, https://www.cleanslateinitiative.org/updates/new-york-becomes-12th-state-to-pass-clean-slate-record-sealing
(2) The Clean Slate Initiative, https://www.cleanslateinitiative.org/
(3) 2023, February 28, Economic Impact Analysis of Clean Slate in Missouri, Missouri Budget Project,
(6) Precythe, Anne L., June 30, 2021, Profile of the Institutional and Supervised Offender Population, Missouri Department of Corrections, https://doc.mo.gov/media/pdf/offender-profile-fy21
(7) 2021, May 28, A Criminal Record Shouldn’t Be a Life Sentence to Poverty, The Center for American Progress, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/criminal-record-shouldnt-life-sentence-poverty-2/
(8) Prescott, J.J. and Starr, Sonja B., (June 2020), Expungement of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study, Volume 133, (Issue 8), p. 2460-2555. https://harvardlawreview.org/print/vol-133/expungement-of-criminal-convictions-an-empirical-study/
(9) Recidivism and Reentry, Prison Policy Initiative, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/research/recidivism_and_reentry/, accessed 2023 September 27.
(10) Why It Matters, Second Chance Business Coalition, https://secondchancebusinesscoalition.org/why-it-matters
(11) Prescott, J.J. and Starr, Sonja B., 2019, March 20, The Case for Expunging Criminal Records, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/20/opinion/expunge-criminal-records.html