July 31, 2014 Articles

The Penn Law Criminal Record Expungement Project

Helping Philadelphians with criminal records get back to work.

By Molly Kenney, William Moine, Kevin Hoagland-Hanson, Elizabeth Frawley, and Robert Kieffer

On January 25, 2014, over 100 Philadelphians traveled to the People’s Emergency Center in west Philadelphia to obtain assistance from University of Pennsylvania Law School students. The attendees braved freezing temperatures, long waits, and a fierce snowstorm to share their stories and receive help with getting back to work despite having a criminal record.

One in five Philadelphians has a criminal record, and these records make it difficult, if not impossible, to find work. Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards, Philadelphia Code § 9-3501(1)(c) (2012). Individuals are often fired once employers learn of their criminal record. Many others are denied the opportunity to obtain an interview for a job once an employer discovers that the individual has a record. The inability to obtain new employment with a criminal record keeps many individuals out of the workforce and may even contribute to recidivism.

Criminal Records and Collateral Consequences
These obstacles to employment are a few of the negative effects of criminal arrests and convictions, known as “collateral consequences.” Collateral consequences act as an additional barrier to reentry into society. Even after completing their sentences and being released, individuals with convictions quickly learn that they can never truly escape their criminal records. Some of the more widespread collateral consequences include voter ineligibility in federal elections and deportation. Additionally, students with drug convictions are ineligible to receive federal student loans.

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