Selected Mentions of Paper Prisons in the News

Maryland Clean Slate Act Proposed to Streamline Record Expungement Process (Feb. 21, 2024)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A proposed Maryland Senate Bill, the Maryland Clean Slate Act of 2024, aims to simplify the process of record expungement for individuals with criminal records. The bill was brought before the State Judicial Proceedings Committee today for a hearing.

According to the Maryland Paper Prisons Initiative, approximately 1 million adults in Maryland, constituting 22 percent of the adult population, have some form of a criminal record. However, only 2% of those who are eligible to clear their records actually petition to do so. 

The Maryland Clean Slate Act seeks to change this in part by establishing an automated process for clearing records, eliminating the need for individuals to petition for expungement.

Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes expressed support for second chances but raised concerns about the feasibility of an automated system. She highlighted the strain it could place on agencies which are already spread thin,

“If you get a conviction, you’ve broken the law, the responsibility should be on you — or, the legislature should provide funding for the agencies to do this. Our public safety agencies are at a place and time with this where they can no longer do more with less,” said Dykes.

Dykes further explained that an automated system would require regular monitoring and maintenance, making it logistically challenging.

“The reality is it wouldn’t be automatic; somebody has to go in once a month under the act and check every record in the system — it’s not workable in reality,” she added.

However, the Wicomico NAACP voiced support for the bill, citing the barriers individuals face when petitioning to expunge their records. They emphasized that these barriers can hinder employment opportunities, housing access, and overall quality of life for those who have served their time.

“It binds them against a candidate for employing, for housing, and especially if it’s something they’ve already served their time for and to have that on their record. To have that on there and consistently weighing them down — and remove that barrier weighing down their lives. It feels like a common sense idea,” said Wicomico NAACP Representative James Yamakawa. 

The bill also includes provisions to limit the waiting time for expungement of records and to provide enhanced protection for individuals with cleared records from having to disclose that information.

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