MIT Study on Expungement - Health Impacts

MIT released a study of the health impacts of expungement, based upon the original juvenile expungement bills developed by youth organizers through UTEC and Teens Leading the Way. 

The Health Impact Assessment (download the full report) looked at the original expungement bills (S.900 and H.1433) and drew the following conclusions:

  1. Perceived discrimination has negative mental health effects: the study predicts this bill would reduce perceived discrimination and have a positive mental health impact on young people.
  2. Police stops are correlated with negative mental health effects: the study predicts that this bill may decrease the frequency of intrusive interactions with law enforcement, as well as the anticipation of these interactions, for youth with criminal records.
  3. Employment has positive mental health effects: the study predicts that expungement makes obtaining a job easier by reducing hiring discrimination and will lead to employment which correlates with lower rates of depression and improved mental health outcomes.
  4. Expungement is likely to keep people out of prison and to improve mental health.

Conclusion"Given the anticipated mental health benefits of expungement on youth with criminal records, we recommend that the Massachusetts legislature pass Bill S. 900. In order to maximize mental health and minimize mental illness, we also make several recommendations to strengthen the bill, and for supplemental initiatives to tackle the fundamental goals of the expungement policy. For example, studies show that when people have to apply for expungement, they rarely do so. 1 We suggest extending automatic expungement to non-violent felonies to ensure that all individuals who are eligible for expungement benefit from the policy. In addition, currently the bill proposes expungement for crimes committed under the age of 21. Research suggests that the brain does not become fully developed until the age of 25. 2,3,4 Therefore, we recommend expanding the bill to include crimes committed before the age of 25. If the bill is passed, we recommend making expungement retroactive based on an appropriate length of time with no new criminal activity."