LIFT Dane has come out with a new legal intervention for transforming Dane County. The Legal Tune Up Tool is a free, automated tool to help people clean their criminal records and provide them access to new opportunities.
“It’s a new tool, an automated tool, that people can use to clear criminal records that are eligible for removal,” Marsha Mansfield, director of LIFT Dane and LIFT Wisconsin. “So, there are records where people have been arrested, but not charged. Or charged and cases have been dismissed, or even acquitted after a case and found not guilty. Those are all records that are eligible to be removed from the criminal history repository. And we have designed an online tool so that people can easily fill out the request that you have to make with the Department of Justice to get those records removed.”
According to the Clearing Criminal Records Fact Sheet (LIFT Wisconsin Legal Interventions for Transforming Wisconsin), records that are eligible for removal under Wisconsin Law include dismissed charges or not prosecuted, arrest records when no charges were filed, records in connection with an acquittal. Records that are not eligible for removal are dismissed charges that are a part of an arrest event in which other charges resulted in a conviction. These include if someone was arrested for battery and disorderly conduct or if the battery was dismissed but the disorderly conduct was not.
“In Wisconsin, old cases are never dropped off from your criminal history,” said Mansfield. “And what happens is employers look at these in doing background checks. Landlords look at the criminal history in doing background checks. And even though it’s not legal in Wisconsin to discriminate against people because of a criminal record, in most instances, people are influenced when they see things like that.”
The Legal Tune Up free online tool was built by LIFT Dane — with help from Legal Action of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Law School, Employment and Training Association, Inc., and The Center for Patient Partnerships — to create civil legal justice and clear legal barriers to economic prosperity of Dane County families. Users in Dane County who access the Legal Tune Up Tool have access to employment resources and training.
“The tool can be used all throughout Wisconsin, but Dane County is where we started the initiative,” said Mansfield. “And the process for getting your records cleared unfortunately requires that you have the form printed out and affix your fingerprints to the form, because that’s how the Department of Justice matches you with the arrest. In Dane County, we have set up an arrangement with both the Urban League and Legal Action of Wisconsin.”
Dane County residents can make an appointment at the Urban League of Greater Madison or the Legal Action of Wisconsin and fill out a form online. The form is sent to one of those buildings and people can go and get fingerprinted, then the form is automatically sent in to start the record clearing process.
“I hope, and I think that other people affiliated, with LIFT Dane hope that more people will use this tool so they do clear their records so they can get better jobs and housing … because that will make a difference to them and their families in our community,” said Mansfield. “But I also hope it will lead to system change. There have been some efforts at criminal justice reform in Wisconsin that haven’t gone very far yet and I’m hoping this will help people who are decision-makers to understand how the impact of having a criminal record can affect you for the rest of your life.”
This tool will give people a fresh start in their lives and stop discrimination against people with minor records and will be a step towards legal equity and justice in Wisconsin.
“So, it (The Legal Tune Up Tool) gives people, they call it, a clean slate,” said Mansfield, “and the ability to start over without these kinds of burdens impacting their ability to get good jobs and housing.”
For more information about The Legal Tune Up, click here.