What Does This Project Do?
The Paper Prisons Initiative of Santa Clara University conducts empirical research to draw attention to the tens of millions of Americans stuck in paper prisons - unable to access employment, housing, voting, resentencing opportunities available under the law - due to their contact with the criminal justice system. We document the “second chance gap” between eligibility for and delivery of relief from as provided by, e.g. reinfranchisement, resentencing, or records expungement. This website provides reports and information on each state’s “second chance expungement gap” - the difference between eligibility and ability to access expungement - using the methodology described in America's Paper Prisons: The Second Chance Gap (Mich. Law. Rev. 2020)
79M - or one in three American adults- have a criminal record.
Americans are eligible to have their record expunged.
Americans cannot drive legally for reasons unrelated to driving
Americans barred from voting due to a prior felony
Americans are incarcerated
A staggering number of Americans live in a paper prison due to contact with the criminal justice system
Across the country, every state has passed “second chance” legislation to, under certain circumstances, allow Americans to clear their criminal records, get back their right to vote, and shorten their sentences. These “second chances” are intended to lower barriers to full reintegration into society and unlock opportunity for millions of Americans. But our research documents that only a small fraction of those eligible for relief have received it, placing tens of millions of Americans in the “second chance gap.”
We produce reports and research that estimate the number of population stuck in “paper prisons” due to their inability to access second chance relief.
Through our empathy hackathons, we partner with nonprofits and changemakers to build tools and technology to address second chance gaps and to raise awareness of the barriers that population often face after they’ve served their time, and to further the creative and innovative approaches to building an integrated society they are developing.