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August 30, 2022

"Racial equity in eligibility for a clean slate under automatic criminal record relief laws"

The title of this post is the title of this new article published in Law & Society Review authored Alyssa C. Mooney, Alissa Skog and Amy E. Lerman. Here is its abstract:

States have begun to pass legislation to provide automatic relief for eligible criminal records, potentially reducing the lifelong collateral consequences of criminal justice involvement.  Yet numerous historical examples suggest that racially neutral policies can have profoundly disparate effects across racial groups.  In the case of criminal record relief, racial equity in eligibility for a clean slate has not yet been examined.  We find that in California, one in five people with convictions met criteria for full conviction relief under the state's automatic relief laws.  Yet the share of Black Americans eligible for relief was lower than White Americans, reproducing racial disparities in criminal records.

We identify two policy amendments that would reduce the share of Black men in California with convictions on their criminal records from 22% to 9%, thereby narrowing the difference compared to White men from 15 to seven percentage points.  Put another way, an additional one in seven Black men currently has a conviction record, compared to their White counterparts.  This would decline to an additional one in 14 if both hypothetical policy amendments were incorporated.  We close with discussion of criminal history data quality limitations, which pose a second key challenge to equitable implementation of automatic criminal record relief reforms nationwide.

August 30, 2022 at 10:27 AM | Permalink


Members of different races will be sentenced equally when they commit crimes equally. Since they don't commit crimes equally -- as everyone reading this blog full well knows -- they will not and should not be sentenced equally.

Should we have the same number of women as men incarcerated for violent crime? No sane person thinks so, because we all know that men commit vastly more of it and therefore should be incarcerated in vastly greater numbers for it.

What you look like doesn't matter. Your behavior matters. But the Left marches on and on anyway, without a hint of rebuke from academia. What a bunch of halfwits and cowards.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 5, 2022 9:08:58 PM

Bill, this research is about record clearing, not sentencing. But, on your point, the US Sentencing Commission has repeatedly found what "what you look like" does matter:


"Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences than similarly situated White male offenders. Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders during the Post-Report period (fiscal years 2012-2016), as they had for the prior four periods studied."

Studies of state systems have reached similar findings:


"trial judges throughout Florida sentence blacks to harsher punishment than whites, a Herald-Tribune investigation found. They offer blacks fewer chances to avoid jail or scrub away felonies. They give blacks more time behind bars — sometimes double the sentences of whites accused of the same crimes under identical circumstances."

Of course, "behavior matters," but "halfwits and cowards" may be a better description of those who cannot see or refuse to acknowledge that there are hundreds of sound studies that show race also has a way of mattering in criminal justice systems (though I suspect class and other like background factors may also help explain why race seems so consistently salient in so many studies). Randy Balko has collected roughly 150 studies at WaPo: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/04/09/more-studies-showing-racial-disparities-criminal-justice-system/

Posted by: Doug B. | Sep 6, 2022 9:17:29 AM

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