Have you been arrested, all charges dropped, but do you still need to explain this to employers? Or were you evicted more than two years ago but still struggling to find an apartment?
These records can follow youonline, without you noticing, visible to potential employers and landlords.
LIFT Dane, a Madison-based collaboration of nonprofits focused on social and economic justice, has developed the Legal Tune-up Tool, which uses an online process to streamline the removal of legitimate criminal and eviction records.
The idea came about as part of the 2019 Dream Up Wisconsin competition, which aimed to invest $ 1 million in technology that could increase the net household income of 10,000 families in Dane County by 10% in two years.
Dream Up Wisconsin is a local version of the national American Dream initiative, funded by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic organization founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy.
“We have used public data, so often used against people, to correct or improve situations that could pose barriers to employment, housing, education, childcare and health,” said Marsha Mansfield, director of the Economic Justice Institute from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Director of LIFT Dane.
In 2019, the Legal Tune-up Tool won the top award in the competition.
Although the launch was delayed by the effects of the coronavirus, Mansfield said his team of attorneys and labor and education service members worked with a technology company to resolve three priorities: criminal or eviction records that can be removed, suspended driver’s licenses and / or outstanding child support orders.
The first of these priorities is now being addressed through the Legal Tune-up Tool and Mansfield said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People are excited to have something that is easy to use, understandable, and can fix something,” she explained.
Here you can find more information about the tool and how to use it.
What is the Legal Tune-up Tool?
With the Legal Tune-up Tool, all Wisconsin residents can see what information is legitimate from their legal history, from the state’s online court system, Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP), as well as the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS), a Database used by employers and landlords to screen potential employees and tenants.
The tool guides residents through the steps and can be used on a computer or phone and is available in English and Spanish.
Dane County residents also have the opportunity to seek legal counsel for their specific case, as well as access to free labor and training services.
You can find the tool at: https://legaltuneup.org/.
How does the tool work?
In the first step you have to enter your name and your date of birth in a form, which then returns all authorized records with your name in CCAP.
To delete CCAP’s records, you can fill out a form and send it to the court registry using the online tool. The procedure does not require the applicant to post the form, although you can download and submit the form yourself.
The tool also provides the ability to view records in the WORCS database, although this requires more steps. To search WORCS, you need to fill out a criminal record form, add your fingerprints to the system, and then have the information sent to you. Wisconsin residents can get fingerprinted free of charge with the Urban League of Greater Madison or Legal Action of Wisconsin.
Mansfield said they are working to secure locations across the state, including Racine, Wausau and Milwaukee, to ensure these residents have easier access to fingerprint services.
What types of records can be removed?
The tool is currently looking at criminal and eviction registers.
Eviction records that can be removed from the CCAP include cases two year old (or older) that have been dismissed and cases where no monetary judgment was included in the records. More details can be found here.
Criminal records that can be removed from the CCAP include arrests in which you have not been charged, charges that have been dismissed, acquittals, and cases of confusion. Other legitimate records include civil matters that contain your personal information when threatened. More details can be found here.
Which records are considered not allowed?
According to the law, the tool cannot be used for deletions or for arrests that led to a conviction. Other records that cannot be removed include cases where a person was arrested and charged with two offenses and only one was released.
“Suspensions are very hard to come by,” said Mansfield. “They are only intended for people who have actually served a sentence or parole after being convicted of a crime, and then, under very specific, specific circumstances, they can go back to have it lifted.”
Will the tool also process other types of data sets in the future?
Finally, tools will be added to assist with driver license reinstatement and child support arrangements, according to Mansfield.
She said LIFT Dane is currently working with the State Department of Transportation and the State Department of Children and Families to access their data so that future users can make inquiries through an online tool.
What is the long term goal with this tool?
Mansfield said LIFT Dane would eventually like to use the tools to collect data to advocate for policy change.
“We want to show that people who are able to clear these records get better, don’t relapse, won’t be evicted, and that’s the basis for policy change,” she said.
Contact Talis Shelbourne at (414) 403-6651 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @talisseer and write to her on Facebook at @talisseer.
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