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Punishment & Society



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criminal records, desistance, expungement, record clearance, reentry


Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance


Through the process of record clearance, individuals can have certain minor convictions removed from their criminal records or designated as expunged. This study analyzes data gathered from semi-structured interviews with 40 persons with past criminal convictions to examine the expectations of individuals who seek record clearance and the extent to which completion of the process facilitates efforts to reintegrate into society and desist from crime. The analysis finds that record clearance benefits ex-offenders through external effects, such as the reduction of barriers to employment, and internal processes, such as the facilitation of cognitive transformation and the affirmation of a new identity. These benefits accrue from both the outcomes of the record clearance process and from the process itself. Increased availability of inexpensive or free opportunities for expungement can contribute to more successful reintegration of persons with criminal convictions into the workforce, families, and communities. Not only would this improve quality of life for the ex-offenders, but it could also increase public safety and reduce public spending.


This is a Preprint of the following article: Ericka B. Adams, Elsa Y. Chen, Rosella Chapman, Erasing the mark of a criminal past: Ex-offenders’ expectations and experiences with record clearance, Punishment & Society (Volume 19, Issue 1) pp. 23-52. © The Author(s) 2016. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. DOI: 10.1177/1462474516645688. The Version of Record is available at this link: https://doi.org/10.1177/1462474516645688 SJSU users: use the following link to login and access the article via SJSU databases.