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Forgiving and Forgetting in American Justice: A 50-State Guide to Expungement and Restoration of Rights

This report catalogues and analyzes the various provisions for relief from the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction that are now operating in each of the 50 states. Its goal is to facilitate a national conversation about how people who have been convicted of a crime may best regain their legal rights and social status. Given the millions of Americans who have a criminal record, and the proliferation of laws and policies excluding them from a wide range of opportunities and benefits, there is a critical need for reliable and accessible relief provisions to maximize the chances that these individuals can live productive and law-abiding lives after completion of their court-imposed sentences. Whatever their form, relief provisions must reckon with the easy availability of records, and the pervasive discrimination that frustrates the rehabilitative goals of the justice system.

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