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Boston Globe to allow people named in arrest reports to apply for anonymization

Boston Globe to allow people named in arrest reports to apply for anonymization
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The Boston Globe has announced an initiative that will allow people named in arrest reports but acquitted, never charged or convicted long ago to apply for their names to be removed from the archives.

The “Fresh Start” initiative comes as the paper has considered how crime coverage has affected race relations in the U.S., and how such reports out of context could do long-term damage to people’s employment prospects or other chances of success.

“It was never our intent to have a short and relatively inconsequential Globe story affect the futures of the ordinary people who might be the subjects,” Globe editor Brian McGrory said in a statement. “Our sense, given the criminal justice system, is that this has had a disproportionate impact on people of color. The idea behind the program is to start addressing it.”

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The newspaper will allow people seeking to have information removed or anonymized to fill out a form and attach any relevant court documents. While it will not be restricted to people whose records have been expunged, the Globe said it will apply a particularly high standard for requests to remove information about violent crimes or those involving public figures.

“[W]e think the value of giving someone a fresh start often outweighs the historic value of keeping a story widely accessible long after an incident occurred,” the newspaper said in a frequently-asked-questions page. “People’s lives aren’t static, they’re dynamic.”

Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel of the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts, said that while initial arrests are frequently covered in the press, it is rarer for exonerations or people serving their sentences without incident to get the same level of coverage.

“They’re trying to put their life back together and move on and be a productive member of society, and the press around whatever it was that got them into trouble continues to haunt them,” he said.

Other publications and outlets have started similar initiatives, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which began one for those with expungements in 2019 while also scaling back its use of mug shots.