In Pennsylvania, nearly 1 in 3 – or three million – people have a criminal record.
- Many have only minor convictions, while others have been arrested but never even convicted of a crime.
- Because of the rise of technology and background-checking, even a minor record can now cause lifelong barriers to opportunity.
- Records negatively impact individuals, families, communities, and the economy.
Criminal records are a major cause of poverty.
- Having even a minor criminal record can serve as a barrier to nearly all basic necessities including employment and housing. Records can also stop people from furthering their education and advancing in their careers.
- Nearly 9 in 10 employers, 4 out 5 of landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges do criminal record background checks.
- Our nation’s poverty rate would have dropped by 20 percent over the past several decades if not for the barriers caused by incarceration and criminal records.
Pennsylvanians need a “Clean Slate”
- People with old and minor criminal records are no more likely to commit future crimes than people without records. We all make mistakes, but only some are punished forever because of them. Clean Slate would change that.
- Clean Slate would use technology to automatically seal from public view arrest records after charges are dropped, as well as certain minor conviction records after 10 years.
- Sealed records would not be available to the public, including employers, landlords, and schools.
- Clean Slate means more people can clear their records, with less cost to the Commonwealth.
- Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate legislation is the first of its kind in the nation and enjoys support from both Republicans and Democrats. Two different versions of the bill have passed the PA House and Senate. The legislature should ACT NOW to pass a final Clean Slate bill and send it to the Governor’s desk.
More than ten years ago at age 25, Ronald Lewis was convicted of drug possession and retail theft, both misdemeanors. Now, at age 38, he is a different person. He is a family man. He freely gives his time to mentor kids in the neighborhood, trying to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. He is a hard worker who has struggled to advance in his career.
After completing vocational training to become a skilled building engineer, Ronald found the door to building engineer jobs was being slammed in his face. Numerous good job offers were retracted when his criminal record came back. Despite repeated heartbreaking disappointments, Ronald does not give up. When he gets discouraged, his children remind him that he has no alternative but to keep trying until he succeeds. Clean Slate would allow thousands of Pennsylvanians like Ronald to live up to their full potential and contribute positively in their communities.
Joselyn is 30-year-old mother of two children. In 2016, she was wrongly accused and arrested for an assault that someone else committed. Once the District Attorney’s office realized the error, they did not bring the case to court. But because Joselyn was fingerprinted, she still had a record.
In 2017, Joselyn began seeking work in the home health care field, but was denied jobs because of the arrest record, leaving her to support her two children with only a small amount of public assistance. Joselyn was determined to work and sought help to get the record expunged, but the process can take up to a year and Joselyn was left with few prospects while she waited. Clean Slate would ensure that people like Joselyn who were wrongly arrested can get their records sealed quickly so that they do not lose out on crucial opportunities to better support their families.