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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 past contact with the criminal justice system. We document the “second chance gap” between eligibility for and delivery of relief from this contact. 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)


STATE REPORTS

Our gap sizing reports document the results of our research.


View All Reports


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

79M - or one in three American adults- have a criminal record.

20-30M

Americans are eligible to have their record expunged.

11M

Americans cannot drive legally for reasons unrelated to driving

5.2M

Americans barred from voting due to a prior felony

2.3M

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.

What Is The Problem To Be Solved?

Every time a person is arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, this event is memorialized in the person’s criminal record, setting off thousands of potential punishments and discriminatory treatments in employment, housing, voting, professional licensing, and civic life. These records and punishments often continue for years even when the underlying activity has been decriminalized, time has been served, or the person was never convicted in the first place. While laws on the books provide second chance relief, deficiencies in their administration mean that only a small fraction have gotten the relief to which they are entitled. Our analysis suggests that uptake rates of convictions relief (expungement, pardons, expunction) are generally low, less than 10-20%.

As a result, tens of millions of Americans, we estimate, are stuck in a paper prison, denied the freedoms enjoyed by persons without records due to old crimes, charges and arrests that were never convicted, and decriminalized activities. Turning the tide on mass incarceration and mass criminalization requires restoring rights - to vote, to not be unfairly judged by an arrest, or to move beyond one’s past conviction - to the one in three adults that lives with a criminal record.




Partners

The Paper Prisons Initiative is a project of Santa Clara University that is made possible through the support of our collaborators and partners

Contact Us

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info@paperprisons.org

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