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Moving Forward: Revitalizing Pennsylvania's Economy by Sealing Old Criminal Records


Moving Forward: Revitalizing Pennsylvania's Economy by Sealing Old Criminal Records

Date Posted: 

Providing a second chance to people with old criminal records is essential to increasing economic security for low-income individuals and communities and will reduce both unemployment and recidivism rates. 

Community Legal Services represents over a thousand individuals each year who are facing barriers to employment because of criminal records. No matter how minor or old, these criminal records prevent individuals from securing employment. It is time for Pennsylvania to join the 35 other states that believe in second chances.

  • An estimated 77 million (nearly one in three) American adults have criminal records. In Pennsylvania, this translates to over three million individuals.
  • The vast majority of employers (87%) perform criminal background checks before hiring, making criminal records a leading contributor to unemployment in Pennsylvania.
  • Connecting just 100 formerly convicted Pennsylvanians with jobs produces $55 million in earnings and yields $1.9 million in wage tax contributions over their lifetimes.
  • Just 100 fewer recidivists saves more than $2 million annually in criminal justice system costs, and reducing recidivism lowers crime rates and enhances public safety.
  • Research shows that for most offenses, after several years without a new conviction an individual is no more likely to commit another crime than someone who has never been convicted.

With broad bipartisan support, states around the country have recognized a common-sense approach to increasing access to employment: allowing certain misdemeanor and felony convictions to be expunged or sealed.

  • Thirty-five states have more expansive expungement or sealing laws than Pennsylvania, including all of our neighbors except Delaware.[1]
  • Twenty-seven states allow misdemeanor convictions to be expunged or sealed in many situations, and twenty-three allow certain felony convictions to be expunged or sealed.

Pennsylvania should join these states by allowing convictions to be sealed when individuals have shown rehabilitation. Doing so will be a boon to the Pennsylvania economy, helping thousands of hard-working Pennsylvanians move forward with their lives.


[1] Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.