In 2017, 23 states enacted laws aimed at reducing barriers faced by people with criminal records in the workplace and elsewhere, says the Collateral Consequences Resource Center in a new report.
Some of these laws significantly expanded the availability of relief, while others involved relatively minor changes to existing laws.
• Most of the new laws involved either restrictions on public access to records or limits on employer inquiries into criminal history. A few states enacted administratively enforceable standards for consideration of criminal history in employment and licensing.
• Important new record-sealing schemes were enacted in Illinois, Montana and New York, and nine other states either relaxed eligibility requirements or otherwise supplemented their existing sealing or expungement authorities to make relief more broadly available at an earlier date. Of these nine, the most ambitious reforms were enacted by Nevada, which was one of several states that created a presumption in favor of relief for eligible persons.
• Seven states enacted substantial revisions to their juvenile expungement and sealing laws in 2017, some of which require courts to order relief automatically after a brief waiting period. • Ten states enacted state-wide “ban-the-box” laws limiting inquiries into criminal records by public employers at preliminary stages of the hiring process. California, Connecticut and Vermont extended these limits to private employers as well.
• In California and Nevada, restrictions on application-stage inquiries are part of a broader nondiscrimination scheme that prohibits consideration of certain kinds of criminal records, and establishes standards for individualized determinations in all other cases. Both states provide additional procedural protections.
• While reforms are moving at a fast pace, there is no consensus about the most effective way to avoid or mitigate the adverse effects of a criminal record, and very little relevant empirical research.