Scaling Civil Legal Aid with ClearYourRecordHarrisCounty.org

Criminal records have numerous downstream impacts. They can limit the ability of individuals to find housing, get a job, and participate in public life. What’s more, the downstream impacts of a criminal record aren’t limited to felonies or convictions. Even people convicted of a misdemeanor or who have had a case dismissed face these barriers.

Individuals can petition the court for an order of nondisclosure in order to seal eligible criminal records from public view, which can reduce or remove these barriers. However, the complex legal requirements for eligibility mean that those without access to a lawyer are usually unable to navigate this option, often leaving those most hurt by criminal records with the least ability to clear them.

That’s where ClearYourRecordHarrisCounty.org comes in. ClearYourRecordHarrisCounty.org is a free digital tool January Advisors built with the Non-Profit, The Beacon. Our tool uses a complex algorithm to automatically determine eligibility for nondisclosure. It allows anyone in Harris County to easily look up their Harris County criminal record, tells them which cases are eligible for sealing, and walks them through the steps to seal their record.

In this talk, we’ll walk you through our process of building ClearYourRecordHarrisCounty.org. Some of the topics we’ll discuss include designing systems around data you don’t control, maximizing the potential of incomplete data, transforming complex policy/law into code, and building a human centered website. You’ll hear from a mix of technical and non-technical professionals, including a program/legal expert, a technical lead, a data specialist, and a user experience specialist.