Juvenile Law Center

Juvenile and Criminal Justice

Protect and Expunge Juvenile Records

Teenagers can make poor decisions that result in justice system involvement, creating obstacles to future opportunities and success. One of the core principles of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitationhelping troubled youth get back on track so they can become productive, responsible members of the community. However, records of juvenile crime—regardless of how minor or severe—may follow an individual throughout adulthood and can have far-reaching consequences on a young person’s ability to pursue higher education, obtain employment or housing, or join the military. Since its founding in 1975, Juvenile Law Center has worked to ensure that juvenile records do not pose barriers to young people as they strive to better their lives. 

Juvenile records contain highly sensitive informationincluding information about the child’s family, education, social history, behavioral problems, and mental health issuesthat is used to provide targeted treatment and rehabilitative services to individual youth. But, such information can be damaging if made available to the public. It is a myth that juvenile records are confidential and automatically destroyed when teenagers become adults. Maintaining juvenile records does very little to advance public safety while narrowing the path to success for youth exiting the juvenile justice system.  

State laws vary on how to protect children from the devastating effects of their records. To limit harmful consequences, Juvenile Law Center urges the swift and permanent destruction, or “expungement,” of these records. Juvenile Law Center has been fighting to ensure confidentiality and expungment of juvenile records for decades. Our expungement work has taken different forms, including individual litigation, educational publications and training about the collateral consequences of juvenile records and expungement laws. 

In 2014, Juvenile Law Center released the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of juvenile records laws in the United States, Failed Policies; Forfeited Futures: A Nationwide Scorecard on Juvenile Records, and an in-depth study of related laws, Juvenile Records: A National Review of State Laws on Confidentiality, Sealing, and Expungement. More recently, Juvenile Law Center released a report on the lonog-term collageral consequences of juvenile records, Future Interrupted: The Collateral Damage Caused by Proliferation of Juvenile Records. In Future Interrupted, Juvenile Law Center urges that we allow children to grow up unfettered by their childhood mistakes—to have their court involvement remain in the past so they can move forward with their lives. Partnering with advocates, local jurisdictions and the federal government, Juvenile Law Center is using these studies as a catalyst to enact reform measures nationwide to limit access to juvenile records and the disclosure of juvenile records information.



Last updated: 2/11/2015


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