Once you are in the criminal justice system, it is difficult to ever fully be free of it. Even if you serve your sentence and do not commit any additional offenses, your criminal record may continue to negatively impact your life for years to come.

Thankfully, some criminal records can be removed from public view through the process of expungement. Each state has its own expungement laws, and you can read more about Oklahoma’s statutes on our expungement page. In today’s post, we’ll examine some research on why expungement is good for individuals and society as a whole.

Very few studies have been conducted about the effects of expungement, in part, because expunged records cannot be accessed by researchers. But a recent analysis in Michigan relied on a data-sharing agreement, and the study results are among the first of their kind.

One argument against allowing expungement is that someone with an expunged criminal record may just go out and commit more crimes. But according to the study, individuals who have had their criminal records expunged “have extremely low subsequent crime rates, comparing favorably to the general population — a finding that defuses a common public-safety objection to expungement laws.”

A powerful argument for expungement is the idea that criminal records prevent offenders from getting work (or good-paying work). Being jobless or underemployed increases the risk of recidivism. Thankfully, expungement is an effective antidote to this. According to the study, individuals with expunged records saw a marked increase in both employment and wages (an average wage increase of 25 percent within two years). The end result is “unemployed people finding jobs and very minimally employed people finding steadier or higher-paying work.”

Unfortunately, too few people who are eligible for expungement are taking advantage of the opportunity. This could be because they don’t know about it, they don’t understand the process or it seems like too much work. If you have an older criminal record and would like to see it removed from public view, you don’t have to go through the process alone. Some law firms, including ours, are available to explain eligibility, answer questions and guide you from start to finish.