Justice is getting the implementation right

Code for America is on a mission to help government truly work for the people, by the people at scale. And we need your help.

Across the country, voters have approved several measures that allow for tens of millions of Americans to legally clear old, low-level convictions from their record, so they can get jobs, housing, and education. These voters recognized that small mistakes in someone’s past shouldn’t forever hinder their opportunity for a bright future. But because of complicated, burdensome bureaucratic processes, a tiny fraction of eligible people have actually benefited from the intention of the voters. We can fix this, but we need your help.

We’ve created a model for automatic clearance of eligible criminal records. We’re launching a pilot with district attorneys across California to use Code for America’s technology to read RAP sheets, determine eligible offenses, and automatically file petitions for record clearance. Focused first on Prop 64, we will clear more than 250,000 eligible records by 2019, but our ultimate goal is to help millions of people nationwide


To support this work, Code for America has launched an ambitious campaign to raise the funds to right a wrong, starting in California, and eventually nationwide, and provide yet another proof point that government can work the way it should.

The Clear My Record prototype, pictured above, lets officials automatically complete thousands of applications for record clearance.

The Clear My Record prototype, pictured above, lets officials automatically complete thousands of applications for record clearance.

Why is clearing records so important?

Having a criminal record has life-altering consequences.

It makes it difficult to find and keep a job, get a professional license, enroll in public benefits, secure housing, and obtain a student loan.

It affects millions of people.

1 in 3 adults (70 million people) have a criminal record in the U.S.

It impacts the economy.

Shutting people with criminal convictions out of the labor market results in loss of as many as 1.9 million workers and costs the U.S. economy up to $87 billion each year in lost GDP.

It stops people from voting.

6.1 million Americans can’t vote because of a criminal record. Disenfranchisement laws vary by state, and are so confusing that countless more people don’t vote, even if they can.

So, in automatically clearing eligible criminal records, the government provides a fresh start to those who do not have the resources to petition the court.

Thank you to our seed funders for helping us get this work up and running.

Shona L Brown and John Rohrer, Nancy Blachman, Darrell Benatar, Scott Chacon, Matt Cutts, Nat Friedman, Lyft, Jim Greer, Ram Gudavalli, Minnie Ingersoll, Brewster Kahl, George Lee, Sam and Jessica Lessin, John Lilly and Kathy Howe, Paul Maritz, Mårten Mickos, Peter Norvig, Tim O'Reilly, Mike and Teresa Olson, The Peery Foundation, Kevin Scott and Shannon Hunt-Scott, Schmidt Futures, John Wolthuis, Rachel Whetstone and Steven Hilton, Yelp

About Code for America

Code for America is on a mission to help transform government to deliver on its promises, and in the process, revitalize our democracy. We can make government truly work for the people, by the people, if we fundamentally rethink government processes and reshape the system at scale.

The tools and techniques of the digital age provide the opportunity to reimagine government systems through the lens of the people who use them and make services as good as what you use at home. We need the enormous asset of government working to address poverty, hunger, and incarceration, and if we’re successful, we can deliver on the promise of greater opportunity for all.