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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Legal Action Center Advocacy Toolkit: Sealing/Expunging Arrest and Conviction Records

  • Organization: Legal Action Center
  • Date Created: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  • Submitted: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  • Attachment(s): LINK

The Unfair Roadblock: As many as 64 million Americans have arrest records, many of which never resulted in conviction. More than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year; hundreds of thousands more are leaving local jails or are serving their sentences in the community. Many of these individuals encounter the stigma associated with having a criminal record as they try to become productive members of society. They also face an explosive growth of legal roadblocks in the form of state and federal laws that make successful reentry much more difficult. (See the Legal Action Center's report, After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry, at ( In many states there is nothing the individual can do to prevent employers, housing authorities and others to obtain their criminal records and use them to deny them opportunities, even if the arrest never led to conviction or the conviction is old or minor.

How to Remove the Roadblock: States should pass legislation that allows individuals to seal or expunge arrests that did not lead to conviction or to have their criminal records sealed or expunged after a reasonable period of time. These reforms can mitigate the stigma that can result from an arrest or conviction record and lower the barriers to successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society, while protecting public safely and maintaining community trust.

This tool kit provides materials that advocates can use to promote the passage of state laws that provide for the sealing and/or expungement of arrest and conviction records.

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