Job seekers in the worst employment market in years are trying to clear their criminal records, reports the Wall Street Journal. Michigan state police estimate they’ll set aside 46 percent more convictions this year than last; Oregon may set aside 33 percent more. Florida sealed and expunged 15,000 criminal records in the year ended June 30, up 43 percent from the previous year. Illinois’ Cook County courts got 7,600 expungement requests in the year’s first three quarters, nearly double the pace from the year before.
Civil-rights advocates complain that young black men are disproportionately hindered when employers ask about applicants’ arrests or convictions. Attorneys say past offenses are increasingly catching up with blue-collar and middle-class applicants with solid work histories. “This is affecting a whole new group,” says Michael Hornung, a defense attorney in Fort Myers, Fl., who charges $1,000 to help clients clear records. “I’ve had more people come in to talk to me about having their records expunged in the last year than I have had in the previous 13 combined.”