A Tool for Narrowing the Second Chance Gap

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The United States has the largest prison population in the world with more than 650,000 ex-offenders released from prison every year, according to the United States Department of Justice. But even after time has been served, criminal records persist, limiting their bearer’s ability to qualify for job, rental, loan, volunteering, and other opportunities available to citizens. It is thus not surprising that the US Department of Justice also reports that approximately two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years of release. In recent years, many laws have been passed to shield past criminal records from future background checks. The Second Chance Gap Initiative (paperprisons.org) uses empirical research and analysis to draw attention to the millions of Americans that remain stuck in “the second chance gap” of being eligible for but not receiving their second chance in the realms of expungement, reinfranchisement, and resentencing. In the case of criminal records, it finds that tens of millions of people that have completed their formal sentences are stuck in a “paper prisons” held back, not by steel bars but bureaucratic and related hurdles that prevent them from assessing a cleaned record. In support of this initiative, the SCU Ethical, Pragmatic, and Intelligent Computing (EPIC) laboratory has developed a flexible tool for ascertaining expungement eligibility. The project hopes to assist those seeking to determine if they qualify via a user-friendly web application containing a rule engine for expungement qualification determination.


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