“Expeal.com is the nation’s first – and still only – completely free resource that guides people through every step of the process to erase their criminal record.”
The most common reaction when people hear this line is one of shock that such a procedure exists, even after finding out that two licensed attorneys founded Expeal. It is a great representation of the lack of general knowledge surrounding sealing and expungement laws. Operating as an online-based Software as a Service provider rather than a law firm, Expeal is out of the reach of most of the restrictions and regulations placed on lawyers by Bar associations, allowing us to have a much louder voice when it comes to educating people.
While more than 600,000 people per year currently seal or expunge their records on an annual basis, tens of thousands more – if not hundreds of thousands more – undoubtedly qualify. For example, according to New York Governor Mario Cuomo, his state has over 10,000 people who qualify to have their 10-year old+ juvenile records pardoned but they have simply never applied. In fact, so many are unaware, part of the efforts involve proactive outreach by the Governor’s office, notifying individuals about the fact they qualify (1).
The lack of education regarding the sealing and expungement process extends beyond the general public to experts in the field of criminal justice reform. In “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences”, a 464-page report from the National Academies Press, sealing and expunging records was mentioned in one sentence on page 256, and only as part of a larger discussion on the impact of criminal records and employment. The mention came with the caveat that there simply isn’t enough evidence related to the impact of clearing records in the body of research they were able to review (2). This lack of evidence came as no surprise to us: while gathering statistics on the state of expungement processes nationwide, several states requested we pay several hundred dollars so that they could perform the labor necessary to create the software commands required to gather the information, as no one had ever asked for it before. In fact, the state of Connecticut began keeping track of the exact statistics we requested only after we emailed our public records request to them (3).
It should also come as no surprise to anyone that the inability to find a job is one of the leading reasons – if not the number one reason – behind recidivism. In a study published by the NIH in 2009, it was found that a person who has a conviction for possessing drugs with intent to distribute found the number of callbacks for entry-level jobs reduced by 50% for white Americans and 64% for black Americans (4). In another study performed by the University of Minnesota and Purdue University, researchers found that even an arrest without a conviction for disorderly conduct would lead to a significant decrease in entry-level job offers (5). The impact of a non-violent low-level felony conviction is so pronounced, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce led the push to convince the state to pass legislation that expanded the expungement process in Kentucky. The main reason behind their support is the fact the state is facing a critical shortage in qualified workers (6). They were undoubtedly aware of research proving that that ex-cons often outperform their non-record having counterparts (7).
We have one main goal at Expeal, and that is to free people from the life sentence of a criminal record. Once a person has done their time, they have paid for their crime. They must be given a realistic chance to reintegrate into their communities.