How Much Does It Help To Expunge A Criminal Record? Local Study Seeks To Find Out

Expungement erases past arrests and charges, and removes old or low-level convictions from public view. But no empirical data show how much of an impact it has on job or housing prospects, or on the chances of future arrests.

News Story (Pennsylvania)

An-Li Herring
WESA (Pittsburgh)
September 23, 2019

Tags: Expungement / Record Sealing

Organizations mentioned/involved: Neighborhood Legal Services Association (Pittsburgh) (NSLA)


Harvard University’s Access to Justice Lab hopes to answer that question by following people who get their records cleared over a seven-year period. Participants in Pennsylvania will come from Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties. Similar research will also be conducted in Kansas.

“What we are trying to do is to establish and create rigorous evidence … about whether expungement does in fact help people,” said Harvard Law School professor Jim Greiner, who is leading the project.

Greiner expects expungement to be helpful. But he said that past studies have shown only that it tends to be associated with better outcomes, such as better access to jobs and lower rates of recidivism. No research, he said, measures the effect of expungement alone.