A person’s whole life should not be defined by their worst mistake.
America’s decades-old culture of tough-on-crime policies has created an unprecedented crisis in our legal system: A staggering number of Americans find themselves locked in a paper prison, with no end to their sentence, even after they’ve served their time.
Clean Slate Delaware aims to expand access to second chances through legislation, implementation, and public education efforts that will expand expungement eligibility and help more eligible records access expungement.
Nationally, nearly 1 in 3 people have some sort of record. Up to 400,000 people who have a record in Delaware live with limited access to jobs, housing, education, starting a business, or participating fully in social and civic community life. 290,000 of those people are eligible for mandatory expungement.
Eligibility for expungement doesn't always mean access to expungement, but Clean Slate legislation passed in 2021 can help change that.
SB 111’s automation of the expungement process and SB 112’s expansion of mandatory expungement eligibility are important next steps in Delaware’s movement to a more equitable, just, and economically prosperous future.
Now, the Clean Slate Delaware campaign will continue to work on expanding access to second chances by ensuring that people living with a Delaware record are aware of eligibility requirements, updated laws, and how they can start the process of clearing eligible records.
In 2018, the General Assembly passed a major juvenile expungement bill, giving Delaware Family Court the option to immediately expunge a felony arrest record if a child is found not delinquent or the charge is dismissed, eliminating the need for a separate application and proceeding.
In 2019, the General Assembly passed another important expungement bill expanding access to second chances for adult Delawareans by creating adult expungement opportunities for most misdemeanors and felonies after a 3-7 year waiting period (depending on the underlying crime) without another conviction.
We expanded access to more second chances in 2021 with the passage of two Clean Slate bills. SB 111 will automate the mandatory expungement process starting in 2024, in order to make record clearance more accessible for people seeking a second chance. SB 112 expanded the list of cases that are eligible for mandatory expungement.
HB 244: Fines & Fees
When Delawareans face court-ordered fines and fees, many are unable to pay the amount they’ve been assigned. This can begin a “debt spiral,” leading from fines and fees to incarceration to more court-ordered debts. That's why our friends at the Delaware Campaign to End Debtors' Prison are fighting to pass HB 244.
HB 244 would eliminate a number of fines and fees, and would also prohibit the Division of Motor Vehicles from suspending driver’s licenses as a penalty for nonpayment of a fine, fee, costs, assessment, or restitution.
Mandatory Expungement Eligibility Guide
Thanks to reforms in recent years, including the passage of SB 37 in 2019 and SB 112 in 2021, the number of records that are eligible for mandatory expungement has grown significantly. Learn more about what cases are eligible for mandatory expungement and how to start the process.
Reports & Resources
Paper Prisons Initiative Report on Second Chance Gaps in Delaware
The Second Chance Gap Initiative of Santa Clara University conducts research to draw attention to the tens of millions of Americans who have completed their time but remain stuck in “paper prisons.” They are burdened by criminal records eligible to be removed, but— due to administrative, debt, and other hurdles—remain on their records, often barring employment, housing, voting, and reintegration opportunities. This report highlights those second change gaps in Delaware.
University of Michigan Law School Study on Expungements
The consequences of a run-in with the law can persist for decades after the formal sentence has been served. People with records face major barriers to employment, housing and education, effectively condemning them to second-class citizenship. This study by J.J. Prescott and Sonja B. Starr, professors at the University of Michigan Law School, shows the benefits of giving people a clean slate.
A Criminal Record Shouldn't Be a Life Sentence to Poverty
The Center for American Progress, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and the National Employment Law Project finds that because 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record, barriers to housing, employment, education, and other barriers to opportunity have contributed greatly to poverty and racial inequality.