The OCA Examines Expungement of Juvenile Court Records

Approximately 17,000 youth come into contact with the Massachusetts juvenile justice system each year. Many of these youth acquire juvenile court records. There is no way to destroy (or expunge) the juvenile record no matter what the circumstances or the severity of charges. Currently, the only option a youth has is to have his or her juvenile court record sealed. Before requesting that a record be sealed, the youth must wait three years and after sealing, the record is still accessible to some people. Having a juvenile court record, even a sealed record, can interfere with a youth’s employment and educational opportunities.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, the OCA partnered with students from the Northeastern University School of Law's (NUSL) Legal Skills in Social Context program to examine sealing and expungement of juvenile court records. Fifteen NUSL students under faculty supervision researched Massachusetts and other states’ laws and conducted interviews with various stakeholders. As the OCA learned more about this issue through the students’ research, we were left to wonder whether expungement of a court record is possible now that records are stored electronically and companies that mine and store data have access to court records. The OCA is interested in partnering with advocates concerned with issues of justice and poverty to develop recommendations and an action plan to address barriers for young adults with juvenile court records.

Read the students' final report with recommendations:

We encourage you to contact the OCA with your input, to share your experiences with this issues, or if you would like any of the research materials compiled for this report.