The Second Chance Gap — feat. JJ Prescott and Colleen Chien

Rebecca talks to two of the leading academics behind a new line of research on the “second chance gap” — whose research on who’s getting left behind by hard-to-navigate expungement systems has been fueling state momentum to make criminal record-clearing automatic for everyone who’s eligible. Subscribe to Off-Kilter on iTunes.

Following decades of mass incarceration and over-criminalization in the U.S., somewhere between 70 million and 100 million people — or 1 in 3 U.S. adults — now have some type of criminal record. And in the digital era, with 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges and universities using criminal background checks to screen out applicants for jobs, housing, and educational opportunities — many are serving out life sentences to poverty that no judge ever handed down.

In recognition that a criminal record shouldn’t be a life sentence to poverty, there’s been a whirlwind of momentum in the states in recent years to expand eligibility for criminal record-clearing — with over half the states expanding laws for expungement, sealing, and other tools for enabling people to wipe their records clean so they can have a fair shot at jobs, housing, education and more. There’s just one tiny problem. The expungement systems that states have been building are leaving behind the vast majority of the folks they’re supposed to help.

To kick off a series of conversations with leaders in the field of reentry and criminal records reform for April as Second Chance Month, Rebecca talks to two of the leading academics behind a critical new line of research on what’s now being called the “second chance gap” — JJ Prescott, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and Colleen Chien, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and Paper Prisons Project — whose research on who’s getting left behind by hard-to-navigate expungement systems has been fueling state momentum to make criminal record-clearing automatic for everyone who’s eligible, instead of just the lucky few who can afford to hire a lawyer.

This week’s guests:

  • JJ Prescott, professor at the University of Michigan Law School (@jjprescott2009)
  • Colleen Chien, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law & founder of the Paper Prisons Initiative (@colleen_chien)

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Off-Kilter is the podcast about poverty and inequality—and everything they intersect with. **Show archive 2017-May ‘21** Current episodes: tcf.org/off-kilter.