The Washington State Second Chance Expungement Gap

15 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2020

See all articles by Colleen V. Chien

Colleen V. Chien

Santa Clara University - School of Law; Stanford University - Department of Management Science & Engineering

Zuyan Huang

Santa Clara University

Jacob Kuykendall

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Katie Rabago

Santa Clara University, School of Law, Students

Date Written: February 28, 2020

Abstract

Every time a person is convicted of a crime, this event is memorialized in the person’s criminal record in perpetuity, setting off thousands of potential collateral consequences, including being penalized in searches for employment, housing and volunteer opportunities. To remove these harmful consequences, Washington law allows people whose criminal records meet certain conditions to vacate their records. However, the Second Chance Gap in Washington “expungements” - the share of people who aren’t accessing the vacation remedy because of hurdles in the petition process - we suspect is large. To estimate it, we used research and practice expertise to approximately model the eligibility criteria for vacation set forth in the law and applied it to a sample of records obtained through a records request from the Administrative Office of the Courts of Washington. Importantly, data limitations made it impossible for us to consider out of state charges, payment of fines and fees, and sentence completion, so we did not model these eligibility conditions. Based on our analysis, Washington’s vacation laws allow for approximately 60% of those who live burdened with criminal conviction records, or over 1M people, to potentially receive relief. But less than 5% of those eligible for relief, and less than 1% of the charges eligible for relief have received the remedy. At current rates of vacation, we estimate that it would take over 4,000 years to clear the backlog of eligible charges using current, petition-based methods, based on our calculations regarding the number of charges that we estimate are eligible for vacation, and the actual number of charges that were vacated last year (1,973). Existing racial disparities in the Washington criminal justice system are significant: currently, African-Americans represent 4.2% of individuals in Washington but within our sample, Afrian-Americans represented 11% of Washingtonians with a criminal record, 15% of Washingtonians with any felony record, and 22% of Washingtonians with a Class A felony record. Among the population of people with criminal records, Clean Slate would apply evenly and therefore not exacerbate but also, would not narrow racial disparities. However, among the general population, Clean Slate would reduce racial disparities significantly as the differences in the share of African-Americans with a record and share of whites with a record would get considerably smaller. Because of the large second chance gap, the filing of petitions by all those who are entitled to could result in a severe congestion at the courts. Washington can close the 95-99% second chance gap between eligibility and delivery of relief by automating relief, solving both problems, but only if it implements the law with some adjustments and compensates for missing and dirty data.

Keywords: criminal records, expungement, Second Chance gap, Washington State, eligibility, vacated convictions, cost-benefit analysis, uptake analysis, computational policy

JEL Classification: K14, K4

Suggested Citation

Chien, Colleen V. and Huang, Zuyan and Kuykendall, Jacob and Rabago, Katie, The Washington State Second Chance Expungement Gap (February 28, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3529777 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3529777

Colleen V. Chien (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States
408-554-4534 (Phone)
408-554-4426 (Fax)

Stanford University - Department of Management Science & Engineering ( email )

473 Via Ortega
Stanford, CA 94305-9025
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/view/colleenchien/

Zuyan Huang

Santa Clara University

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

Jacob Kuykendall

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Katie Rabago

Santa Clara University, School of Law, Students

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
82
Abstract Views
575
rank
364,781
PlumX Metrics