HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law was enacted to provide opportunities for more residents with a criminal record as they search for employment.
Currently, the law provides criminal record sealing for some misdemeanors and other lower-level offenses. Since its enactment, it’s sealed the records of more than one million job seekers who’ve been burdened by their criminal record.
“More than 1.2 million people across this Commonwealth have had relief with regards to their criminal records because of what we did here and Clean Slate back in 2018,” said House Democratic Whip, Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia).
This week, lawmakers are working to take Clean Slate one step further to reduce the burden that still continues to hinder the success of many Pennsylvanians.
“30 years ago, I was arrested with a small amount of marijuana and cocaine, and the charge was intent to deliver,” said Gina Davis, a Clean Slate advocate who shared her story at the State Capitol on Wednesday. “However, since then, I’ve raised my family, I’ve employed myself throughout the last 28 years, I’ve earned my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree and other certifications,” Davis added.
Despite her success, Davis still bears the shadow of a lingering criminal record.
“The criminal record of 1994 continues to show up in interviews and job applications,” said Davis.
She, like millions of others, paid her debt to society but is still haunted by an arrest nearly three decades ago.
“I paid my restitution. I was sentenced to eleven months of probation. I just can’t understand why it’s still there,” said Davis. “I’m only seen as the record and I am not my criminal history,” she added.
Currently, Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate provides automatic criminal record sealing to those convicted of second- and third-degree misdemeanors, misdemeanors punishable by two years or less in prison, summary convictions, and charges not resulting in convictions.
It’s become a popular model for states around the country in the last four years and now lawmakers are looking to build off its success and expand automated sealing to low-level drug felony convictions after ten years with a crime-free record.
“Expanding Clean Slate to cover felonies, nonviolent felonies, low level felonies in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Harris.
House Bill 1826 is a bipartisan bill, and has the support of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Pennsylvania State Police, Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Right on Crime, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Franklin Together Reentry Coalition, Americans for Tax Reform, and Justice Action Network.
“This is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democrat issue,” said Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), prime sponsor of HB 1826. “This is a people issue, this is a jobs issue,” she added.
“This makes sense for employers. It makes sense for Pennsylvania’s economy. They cannot find the people to fill the open positions that they have,” said Alex Halper, Director of Government Affairs for the PA Chamber of Business and Industry. “We desperately need to expand the pool of talent, the pool of applicants in Pennsylvania. That’s why we support this legislation and why we support Clean Slate,” he added.
HB 1826 received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Rep. Harris says there is similar legislation moving in the Senate as well. HB 1826 will have to be voted out of committee before making it to the House floor for a full vote.
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