Ninety-two million Americans have a criminal record—nearly one in three adults. 1 This criminal record can include an arrest that did not lead to a conviction, a conviction for which the person did not serve time in prison, or a conviction for a non-violent crime. 2 All can have a similar impact on an individual’s job prospects and on local economies. Incarcerating adult Americans costs a combined $68 billion annually at the local, state, and federal levels. 3 The cost of lost wages and lost financial contributions to society by ex-offenders is even higher.
This financially immobilized population of former offenders may be permanently unemployable. In response, a majority of states have created statutes to permit select offenders a new chance. 4 These states grant that after a waiting period and good behavior, ex-offenders may apply to have their convictions sealed or “set aside.” 5 These expungements remove the conviction from public records, lifting the stigma and the resulting barriers to employment. 6