Criminal records make it difficult for residents to access public services, secure housing, and find gainful employment. These challenges increase the risk of recidivism. Record sealing and expungement could mitigate that risk. However, D.C. has one of the most confusing and restrictive laws in the country. The process for sealing misdemeanor records involves significantly longer wait periods than the majority of states. As a result, one in seven people in Washington has a publicly available criminal record and many are for arrests that resulted in a dismissal or acquittal. Black people, already seven times as likely as White residents to be unemployed, make up 91 percent of people incarcerated and 86 percent of people arrested in D.C.
By simplifying the expungement and record sealing processes, expanding eligibility, and shortening wait times, the RESTORE Act will improve public safety by giving people access to the opportunities they need, especially employment.
Status: Some changes passed through the Second Chance Amendment Act. Additional changes need to be made for record sealing and expungement to be more equitable and more accessible.