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Detroit celebrates 10,000 criminal records cleared with Project Clean Slate

Detroiter Nicholas DuBose, here with Mayor Mike Duggan, says Project Clean Slate has impacted his life in profound ways both big and small.
City of Detroit
Detroiter Nicholas DuBose, here with Mayor Mike Duggan, says Project Clean Slate has impacted his life in profound ways both big and small.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and other city leaders celebrated a milestone for the city’s Project Clean Slate on Monday: the expungement of its 10,000th criminal conviction.

Project Clean Slate leads eligible Detroiters with criminal records through the expungement process at no cost. It’s a city-run program staffed by full-time attorneys, something city officials say makes it unique in the nation.

Duggan said part of the program’s success is due to the fact that the city set up a special court docket to expedite the expungement process. He said its success has surpassed even the highest hopes he had when it launched in 2016.

“There was no excuse for us not to handle large numbers. But I’ve got to tell you, I never thought I'd see the day we had 10,000 convictions expunged, just out of the city of Detroit,” Duggan said.

The overwhelming majority of our residents who get expunged see significant increases in their employment, their personal income, and their quality of life. It makes a huge difference.”

Duggan also credited some changes to state law in the past few years that expanded the number and types of convictions eligible for expungement and sped up the process dramatically. As a result, Project Clean Slate has steadily increased the number of people it’s been able to help, expunging over 5,000 criminal records in 2023 alone.

Nicholas DuBose is one of those people. He said that alongside “those very big issues” like housing and employment that expungement helps people with, there are “these smaller but just as significant things that happen. And you don't know these things until they happen.”

For DuBose, expungement has also meant the ability to travel again. It meant he and his wife could foster a young nephew in a time of need. And it’s meant a new sense of empowerment, in the job market and in his life more broadly.

During a recent job interview, “There was a point when they decided that they wanted me,” DuBose said. “They wanted to hold me, and they slid an offer across the table. For the first time in 30 years — I've been working almost 30 years — first time in my whole life, I negotiated my salary.

“I felt like I could do that because I felt worthy. I felt worthy. And that was because I walked in without that cloud over my head.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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