The Connecticut Second Chance Pardon Gap
15 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2021 Last revised: 19 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 10, 2021
Connecticut Law Chapter 961a Section 54-142a, Chapter 960a Sections 54-76o and 54-130a allows individuals whose criminal records meet certain conditions to apply for pardons of their past criminal convictions. Proposed Bill SB 403, Connecticut’s “Clean Slate” Act, likewise would provide for automatic erasure of the records of a subset of individuals who can apply for pardons. Ascertaining, then applying existing pardons law and proposed “Clean Slate” law to a sample of 309,827 criminal histories of individuals with Connecticut convictions records, and then extrapolating to the estimated population of 450K individuals in the state with convictions, we estimate the share and number of people who are eligible to apply for pardons, under existing pardons and “Clean Slate” eligibility rules but have not received relief and therefore fall into the “second chance gap,” the difference between applications eligibility for and receipt of records relief. (We did not model legal financial obligations or other out of record criteria).
Based on the methods described above, we find that approximately 88% of individuals with convictions (394K) are eligible to apply for pardons of their convictions, 80% (355K) for relief from all convictions. Under Clean Slate, 60% (266K) of individuals with convictions would be eligible for relief from their convictions, 30% (134K) for relief from all convictions. Based on reported records, the State pardoned 626 cases in the last year of available data (2019). At this rate, it would take 631 years for everyone currently eligible to apply for Pardons to get them, 425 years to clear the backlog of those eligible for relief under Clean Slate. The felony population would decline from 10% to 8% under Clean Slate, to 2% if all eligible to apply for pardons were automatically granted them.
These facts make automated relief an administratively attractive option. However, due to deficiencies in the data and ambiguities in the law uncovered during our analysis, including regarding disposition, chargetype, and sentence completion criteria, to provide relief through “Clean Slate” automated approaches would require significant data normalization and cleaning efforts. We include, in Appendix E, statute drafting alternatives to address problems, based on previous Clean Slate efforts. Included in our report are our Methodology (Appendix A); Disposition Data Report (Appendix B); Appendix C (Common Charges); Detailed Absolute Pardon Statistics (Appendix D); Clearance Criteria Challenges and Legislative Drafting Alternatives (Appendix E). Appendix F contains further analyses by race. Black men are two times more likely to have a felony record and four times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, and black adult men are incarcerated at a rate that is 14-15 times their prevalence in the general population. (Appendix F) Automation of pardons relief and SB403 would both decrease racial disparities, but automation of pardons relief would do so to a much more considerable degree.
Keywords: second chance gap, pardons, criminal records clearance, expungement, Connecticut, criminal records, cost-benefit analysis, uptake analysis, computational policy
JEL Classification: K14, K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation