23 States Pass Laws Helping People With Criminal Records

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Twenty-three states this year enacted laws aimed at reducing barriers faced by people with criminal records in the workplace and elsewhere, says the Collateral Consequences Resource Center in a new report. Some of the laws significantly expanded the availability of relief, while others involved minor changes to existing laws, the center says. Most of the new laws involved either restrictions on public access to records or limits on employer inquiries into criminal history. A few states enacted enforceable standards for consideration of criminal history in employment and licensing.

The center says that important new record-sealing schemes were enacted in Illinois, Montana and New York, and nine other states either relaxed eligibility requirements or supplemented existing laws on sealing records or expungement authorities to make relief more available at earlier dates. Of the nine, the most ambitious reforms were enacted by Nevada. Seven states enacted substantial revisions to their juvenile expungement and sealing laws. Ten states enacted state-wide “ban-the-box” laws limiting inquiries into criminal records by public employers at preliminary stages of the hiring process. California, Connecticut and Vermont extended these limits to private employers. In California and Nevada, restrictions on application-stage inquiries are part of a broader nondiscrimination scheme that prohibits consideration of certain kinds of criminal records. The center concludes that, “While reforms are moving at a fast pace, there is no consensus about the most effective way to avoid or mitigate the adverse effects of a criminal record, and very little relevant empirical research.”

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