Study finds benefits of SJSU’s Record Clearance Project

On March 14, five students from the Stanford Public Policy Program shared the results of a study on San José State University’s Record Clearance Project.

The SJSU Record Clearance Project, started in January 2008, connects people eligible to clear their criminal records with undergraduate students in the Justice Studies department in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts who assist them through the process. In 2013, the team reported filing 169 petitions on behalf of 55 clients with all but two dismissals granted.

The study, released on March 17, found that an expunged record makes it easier for people with criminal histories to find employment. According to a press release, “Increased employment in turn benefits the government through increasing tax revenues and decreasing public assistance payments.” The researchers found the cost of court fees associated to expunge a record are a one-time, relatively small cost compared to the potential positive benefit of gainful employment that has benefits that accumulate over time.

In the cost analysis report, the Stanford students found a net benefit of $5,760 per Records Clearance Project client in one year. The students noted there were other benefits that were not quantifiable. The study found the positive benefits continue to accrue beyond the first year after an expungement.

In California, people can apply to expunge a conviction after completing probation or a jail sentence though the study found many people do not pursue expungement because they are not aware of it or don’t have the resources to pursue it.

Based on their findings, the Stanford team made four public policy recommendations related to expungements:

  • Increase awareness and accessibility
  • Increase funding for programs that provide legal expungement assistance
  • Provide more resources for processing and hearing expungement cases
  • Conduct additional research

The SJSU Records Clearance Project team continues to work with clients, with a group of Columbia law students on campus March 17 through March 22 for an “alternative spring break.” The students are volunteering much of their time this week to working with SJSU students on the RCP program, with a goal to prepare client petitions for a May hearing.

For the full Stanford Public Policy Program report, click here for a PDF:

For more information on the San Jose State Univeristy Records Clearance Project, visit or email

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