For Philadelphia Youth: Online Guide for Juvenile Record Expungement

Whiquitta Tobar, Zubrow Fellow,

A middle school fight can last forever. Years after the school calls the police and the adolescent goes to court, the record of the incident can continue to affect a young person’s ability to find gainful employment, qualify for college loans, secure housing, or generally move on from the worst moment in her young life. For so many youth, this is their story.

Yet, few youth understand the devastating impact juvenile records can have on them, or that they can take steps to get rid of these records by asking the court for expungement. To help youth and families navigate this system, Juvenile Law Center, in collaboration with Juveniles for Justice and the Defender Association of Philadelphia, created www.expungephiladelphia.com.  

Expunge Philadelphia is a user-friendly website designed to educate youth and families on juvenile records and the expungement process in Philadelphia. The website explains how to identify if an individual has a juvenile record, how records can get in the way of a young person’s future, and the process for getting a record expunged.

For youth of color in Philadelphia, understanding the impact of records and the expungement process is particularly important. A disproportionate number of youth of color become involved in the system, and records are increasingly more damaging for these youth and their communities. For example, studies have shown that Black job applicants with criminal history are 40% less likely to be called back for an interview than their white counterparts.

Juvenile records can hurt individual kids and families – sometimes for years or decades. However, bad policies regarding access to juvenile records threaten the future economic wellbeing and health of communities of color. City, state, and federal policies which make juvenile records accessible to employers, educators, or the public at large often end up disqualifying youth from education or employment opportunities. These policies stop young people from getting their lives on track, which means they cannot contribute as meaningfully to their communities’ economic growth and prosperity.

Our country’s rhetoric still identifies rehabilitation as the juvenile justice system’s primary goal, but we consistently and systemically isolate and impede our children’s growth by forever branding them as “delinquents.” Expunge Philadelphia provides youth and families with information at the front end, so they can make informed decisions about their cases and be ready to ask the court for expungement as soon as they are eligible. We also recently worked with My Digital Landscape to redesign the site to make it even more user-friendly, mobile responsive, and accessible. Armed with information, youth and families will have an easier time navigating communities and systems.

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