Strike from the Record: Administrative Burden in Expungement of Criminal Records

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


Too few people eligible for clearing their criminal record take up the program. Although the policy is designed to help mitigate the collateral consequences of an arrest or criminal conviction, few proceed through the administrative process. Previous research estimates that only 6.5% of eligible record-bearers in Michigan petitioned for expunction (Prescott & Starr, 2019), creating what Chien (2020) calls a “second chance gap.” This likely perpetuates social, economic, and political inequalities because an arrest and/or conviction is often accompanied by collateral consequences. Justice-involved individuals may be disqualified from, or have restrictions placed on employment, public benefits, and rights. However, some evidence suggests that a clean slate, in the form of record clearance, can boost employment rates and wages and is helpful at reducing re-offending (Presscott and Star 2019; Selbin, Mccrary, and Epstein 2017; Shloberg et al. 2014). Why, then, don’t more eligible record-bearers participate in expungement programs?