Clean Slate Summit highlights Utah’s law that gives people a second chance
Jan 24, 2023, 5:25 PM | Updated: 9:49 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — More than one in four Utahns has a criminal record and wants that social barrier removed. The Utah Jazz, the NBA, and Rasa Legal teamed up today to give a big boost to Utahns who need that second chance. They put on a three-hour Clean Slate Summit to help people expunge their criminal records.
The NBA is highlighting Utah’s Clean Slate Law because the All-Star Game will be played at Vivint Arena next month. The NBA also has a new arm focused on social justice initiatives, like the Clean Slate Law, which is only the second of its kind in the country. For those who have already taken advantage of the law, it has made a big difference.
“You walk around, knowing that you have this thing that makes you different from everybody else, and you feel so isolated. So, it affects you socially,” Brock Smith said.
As a teen, Smith had an addiction disorder that led to bad decisions, and a trip through the criminal justice system. As he turned his life around that record became a barrier to housing, employment, and higher education.
“When I was able to get my record expunged, I was able to have the freedom that society really brings without the scarlet letter of a criminal record,” Smith said.
At the expungement clinic, more than 350 people with criminal records got legal advice from attorneys volunteering their services. Under Utah law, many misdemeanor and felony records are eligible for expungement, with the exception of violent crimes and sex crimes.
“Having a criminal record is a lot more common than people think. If you or a loved, one, has a criminal record, you’re not alone. Over one in four, Utahns has some type of criminal record,” said Noella Sudbury, CEO and founder of Rasa Legal.
Even old records can be a barrier for people turning their life around, she said. Most landlords and employers do background checks.
“If you have a criminal record, you have to check that box,” Sudbury said.
After an expungement..
“When someone gets their record cleared it opens up all kinds of opportunities for housing, jobs, education, volunteering in your kids’ school,” she said. “It eliminates all of those barriers of a criminal record.“
The Clean Slate Law was passed unanimously by Utah Lawmakers four years ago and implemented fully last year. The NBA is using it to highlight what Utah is doing to promote race equity and create second chances. Already, 200,000 records have been processed and cleared by the Utah courts.
“That’s a huge impact on people who made a mistake, paid their debt to society, and now are coming home,” James Cadogan, executive director of the National Basketball Association Social Justice Coalition said.
Why does that matter to the NBA?
“Because justice matters, and there are so many issues that we can make a difference on, like bringing people together. As a coalition, we start with voting rights, policing, and criminal justice reform,” Cadogan said.
For Brock Smith, it’s a new life without the old barrier.
“That chip is off my shoulder now,” he said. “So just mentally, emotionally and socially, I benefited greatly.“
If you missed today’s event, Rasa Legal has a tool you can use to determine whether you are eligible for expungement at rasa-legal.com.