Have you been arrested for a crime in Philadelphia without conviction? Has this blight on your criminal record kept you from achieving success?
On Wednesday, May 2, District Attorney Larry Krasner discussed with AL DÍA his plan to change the way his office handles expungement, the process of erasing pieces of a criminal record where there has been no conviction. Krasner said his office will be speeding up the expungement process for arrests for crimes such as marijuana possession, which can make it exceedingly difficult for those arrested to pursue higher education, be approved for a loan or land a job.
“No conviction comes out of it, but it’s gonna dog them the rest of their days,” Krasner said. “It’s gonna be on that record until they’re in their seventies unless they do something affirmative to try to erase it.”
The district attorney noted that many of the people who find themselves with an arrest record for such crimes are from low-income communities, lacking the legal and monetary resources needed to have their records cleaned.
“It’s a very, very important topic in a city and in a society where we enforce in poor neighborhoods much more heavily than we do in wealthy neighborhoods,” Krasner said, adding that in these communities, predominantly people of color are being “disproportionately disabled” for behavior that is common in more affluent, whiter neighborhoods.
With arrest records preventing people from building careers and providing for their families, Krasner said the system is pushing them toward lives of crime.
“I see this not only as being a matter of social equity,” Krasner said. “I see it as a way to prevent crime.”
Krasner affirmed that his staff is being “very careful” to make sure there will be no expungements that will jeopardize public safety, adding that arrests for violations such as domestic violence and sexual assault will not be expunged because “they tend to be the types of crimes that are committed serially.”
The district attorney does not anticipate any challenges in taking this action.
“We are confident that the court system will see the wisdom in moving these cases forward expeditiously,” Krasner said. “We believe that there will be no difficulty here other than the usual, which is change is hard for some people who are used to a different way.”