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How Clean Slate Laws Create Better Cities

Watch this webinar to learn how the movement for Clean Slate laws is advancing economic mobility by leveling the playing field. 

April 28, 2021

One in three Americans has some type of criminal record, which can create lifelong barriers to housing, employment, education and other opportunities for them and for their families. Clean Slate laws that automatically expunge records for thousands of people can double someone’s wages. The Clean Slate Initiative is a bipartisan coalition that is advancing these policies nationwide.

Over the past three years, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Utah have passed Clean Slate laws to open opportunities for millions — a change that has strengthened COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery and created a more efficient government at the same time. How can cities help returning citizens get jobs? In Detroit, helping someone clear their criminal record is four times as effective as traditional job training.

During this presentation, Clean Slate representatives will show how criminal justice systems that do not have expansive record-clearing policies are burdensome and costly — not only for those with records, but for government as well. Often, the justice system disproportionately disenfranchises and oppresses communities of color by stripping away opportunities for human connection, financial stability and the right to vote, among countless other collateral consequences, turning what may be a limited time in prison into a lifelong sentence.

Tune in for a Next City webinar with representatives from Clean Slate Initiative — Sheena Meade, Jesse Kelley and Alia Toran-Burrell of Code For America — as they discuss “How Clean Slate Laws Create Better Cities.” Meade will speak on the role that automatic record clearance plays in a successful COVID-19 economic recovery and in stabilizing struggling industries. Toran-Burrell will highlight how technology is central to the idea of automation, and how states can use automation technology effectively. Kelley will discuss the policy implications and variances of expungement laws across multiple states.



Alia Toran-Burrell is the Associate Program Director with Code for America’s Clear My Record initiative, where she leads partnerships and program strategies. Before joining Code for America, she managed a jail diversion program in Massachusetts, working to divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues away from the criminal legal system.

Toran-Burrell is a social worker by training and has over ten years of experience in the field, including work as a community organizer and social justice educator.



Cinnamon Janzer is a freelance journalist based in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared National Geographic, U.S. News & World Report,, and more. She holds an MA in Social Design, with a specialization in intervention design, from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA in Cultural Anthropology and Fine Art from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.


A seasoned organizer, campaigner and advocate, Sheena Meade’s calling is to transform pain into power. As a mother and an activist, Sheena knows firsthand that the communities most impacted by injustice are closest to the solutions. This truth has been a driving force behind her career in organizing, philanthropy and nonprofits.

Meade is the first Managing Director of the Clean Slate Initiative, a national bipartisan coalition advancing policies to automatically clear all eligible criminal records across the United States. Prior to joining the Clean Slate Initiative, She helped restore voting rights to 1.4 million people experiencing felony disenfranchisement as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the bipartisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) and Senior Advisor to the Second Chances Florida Campaign.


Jesse Kelley is a National Campaign Manager with the Clean Slate Initiative, where she is responsible for managing state-level campaigns in an organization focused on expanding and automating the criminal record clearing process. Previously, Kelley served as Government Affairs Manager for Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties at the R Street Institute, where she advocated, researched, and drafted policy papers relating to policing reform, juvenile justice, reintegration, post-conviction life and related topics. 

Earlier in her career, Kelley served as legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project where she led the development and implementation of state advocacy initiatives and saw decriminalization and legalization successes across the country. She practiced law as a criminal defense attorney in Alabama and worked with the Mississippi Innocence Project on post-conviction issues, specifically investigating cases where convictions relied heavily on forensic evidence.

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