"Everyone Deserves A Second Chance" | Jazz Help Host Clean Slate Expungement Summit

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

“Everyone deserves a second chance.”

According to Jazz owner Ryan Smith, that was the theme of Tuesday afternoon at Vivint Arena when the Utah Jazz, the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, Clean Slate Utah, and RASA all came together to further better the state of Utah. 

“I think for a lot of people, it’s been this theoretical thing, but it’s not,” Smith said. “The Social Justice Coalition is impacting lives. There are 400 people upstairs who woke up this morning and decided that today’s a new day, and their lives are going to change. … They’re leaving the past behind, and that’s what all this is about.”

In alignment with Utah’s Clean Slate Law, the groups worked together to convene a Clean Slate Expungement Summit on Tuesday. 

The event showcased the positive impact of Utah’s Clean Slate law, provided individuals with records and a free legal screen to check their eligibility for expungement, and if eligible, helped them complete the application to apply for expungement. 

“We’re going to keep doing whatever we can and invent new ways to help remove barriers,” said Erin Mendenhall, Mayor of Salt Lake City. “Wherever anyone goes today and the conversations they get to have, let’s help get the word out there to Utahns that their backgrounds can be cleared. … Their path forward is even more clear.”

The event was also helpful for those who were unable to meet the eligibility requirements, allowing them to explore and access other community services. The Summit also included a speaking program and panel that brought together key officials, stakeholders, and NBA family representatives.

“Part of what we’re really excited about is the fact that this law really targets people who are eligible for expungement,” said James Cadogan, Executive Director of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition. “The fact that we’re able to bring people together here with the Jazz, with RASA, with Clean Slate Utah to start helping implement what work is incredibly important. We know we will be helping bring racial justice to Salt Lake City and Utah.”

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Clean Slate Summit and Second Changes in UT part of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition at vivint.SmartHome Arena on January 24, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

After being signed in 2019 with full bipartisan support, Utah’s Clean State Law officially went into effect in 2019. 

It means that hundreds of thousands of Utahns with eligible misdemeanors will have those charges expunged automatically over the next few years, giving them a chance at a new life. Whether it be through employment, housing, or any other required background check, Utahns who get their record expunged are now being offered a new future, one with unlimited potential. 

Those who get their records cleared often see immediate benefits regarding employment and housing, creating positive effects for public safety, the broader community, and the economy.

However, not everyone will be eligible. 

Some misdemeanor-level and felony cases are not eligible for automatic expungement under the law — but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Some cases may be eligible for clearance through a petition-based process. 

“Unfortunately, people pay their debt to society, and then that’s still hanging over their heads in ways that are unfortunate,” said Spencer Cox, Governor of Utah. “We know better, we know we can do better, and that’s the purpose of this law. … I’m grateful for the judicial community that is working with us as well to make this happen.”

For Smith and the Jazz, it was an honor to speak on Tuesday amongst the state’s leaders. 

Ever since he took over, Smith has wanted to continue the work done by the Miller family, even expanding on it as much as possible — and Tuesday was the perfect opportunity to positively affect society in Utah. 

“This is what it’s all about. … Our state unanimously passed the bill,” he said. “This is definitely one of the highlights of the state, something I’m super proud of. For our platform with the Jazz and being the tenant that we are downtown, we want to open up doors and help.

“We’re stewards of the organization. We said that when we came into the Jazz, we wanted to do some good, and this was something that was sitting there with the state and was something where we could make a massive change.”