About Paper Prisons

What is the Second Chance Gap?

America's Paper Prisons Paper

Expungement Tool Paper

ID Tool Paper

Our Team


The Paper Prisons Initiative conducts empirical research to draw attention to the tens of millions of Americans burdened by contact with the criminal justice system despite being eligible for relief from this contact. We document the “second chance gap” between eligibility for and delivery of relief from the criminal justice system as provided by, e.g. reinfranchisement, resentencing, or records expungement, using the methodology described in America's Paper Prisons: The Second Chance Gap (Mich. Law. Rev. 2020).

We are a multi-disciplinary team of students, lawyers, data scientists, and social scientists, including several systems-impacted leaders, that work with advisors and advocates to raise awareness of and narrow the Second Chance Gap, as defined by our research. We also host second chance and empathy hackathons that draw upon Bryan Stevenson’s “power of proximity”. Contact us about collaboration: info@paperprisons.org.

80M - or one in three adults have a criminal record. By our estimate, a large share are unable to access employment, housing, or related opportunities due to their convictions even though those convictions are eligible for clearance under the law. As partners of the Clean Slate Initiative, we support state campaigns, currently in OR, CT, NY, DE, MN, and MO, to pass laws to achieve second chances through automation, not petitions. When the data permits (see, e.g. OR and CT reports), we document the racial disparities, often significant, in the share of people impacted by the second chance gap, but also, the opportunity to narrow such disparities through campaigns like Clean Slate. We also provide state-level summaries of the law for those seeking to understand the eligibility criteria for records clearance.

Chart depicting Estimated Petitions-Based Conviction Expungement Uptake Rates


The Paper Prisons Initiative is made possible through the support of our collaborators and partners

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