LIFT Wisconsin™ Launches Criminal Record Clearing Tool
New online tool helps Wisconsin residents proactively find and resolve legal issues through the use of public data.
Madison, Wisconsin – May 25, 2021
"Every person leaving incarceration should have housing, the opportunity at a decent job, and health care. A person’s conviction history should not unfairly exclude them from employment, occupational licenses, access to credit, public benefits, or the right to vote. Certain criminal records should be expunged and sealed so people can overcome their past."
That is the message from the White House, as it issued its proclamation that April was Second Chance Month. Everyday employers and landlords deny people jobs and housing based upon a criminal background check, causing greater economic insecurity for Wisconsin’s workers and their families. Today these workers have the means to quickly eliminate eligible criminal records through a mobile friendly tool developed by LIFT Wisconsin. The new tool lets Wisconsinites scan the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS) to find and remove public record of arrests and charges that did not result in a conviction, all by using their phone or computer. They also can clear eligible criminal and eviction records from CCAP (Wisconsin’s Consolidated Court Automation Programs).
Criminal records and background checks have become a lucrative and significant part of American life. Surveys show that roughly nine in ten U.S. employers check databases of criminal records when hiring for some positions. Some focus solely on felony convictions; others also consider misdemeanors or arrests. A rising concern that background checks are being used to systematically exclude applicants with criminal records is fueling a national “ban the box” movement. The name refers to the box that job applicants are sometimes required to check if they have been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor. Governor Evers, as part of his budget, included legislation that would require that employers not ask about criminal histories until after those applicants have had the chance to do a job interview. Employers are justified in wanting to hire trustworthy, responsible workers. But with so many people with criminal records, valuable potential employees are being overlooked. This is where LIFT Wisconsin can help.
With a user login, anyone can use LIFT’s Legal Tune Up tool to get rid of eligible Wisconsin criminal records by simply searching for their cases, inputting information, and printing all documents required to file a petition for criminal record clearing. Dane County residents can then get assistance with training and employment opportunities, and LIFT’s plan is to expand this resource statewide in the next two years. The Legal Tune Up can be found at: legaltuneup.org. Theory and Principle, a legal technology product design and development firm based in Portland, Maine designed and built the application.
LIFT Wisconsin, a pioneering social justice initiative, is a collaboration of the Economic Justice Institute, Inc., University of Wisconsin Law School’s civil legal clinics, Center for Patient Partnerships, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and the Employment and Training Association of Dane County.
LIFT received the top award in last year’s inaugural Alliance for the American Dream competition, with the goal to increase shared prosperity and stabilize and expand the middle class. The award is funded by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative co-founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt.
Marsha Mansfield, JD
Director,LIFT Wisconsin™/LIFT Dane™