Bipartisan Advocates Praise Pennsylvania for Making Communities Safer by Removing Barriers for Those With a Criminal History

Syrita Bowen News, Pennsylvania, Uncategorized

As the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approves new “clean slate” legislation, the U.S. Justice Action Network– the largest bipartisan organization working to reform the justice system in Pennsylvania and across the country– praises Senators Scott Wagner (R-28th) and Anthony Williams (D-8th), in addition to Representatives Sheryl Delozier (R-88th) and Jordan Harris (D-186th), for leading a bipartisan group of over 28 Senators and 40 Representatives sponsoring the new bills. SB 529 and HB 1419 would enable the automatic sealing of conviction histories for nonviolent misdemeanors, as opposed to having to file individual petitions, after a crime-free period of 10 years.

Holly Harris, Executive Director, U.S. Justice Action Network: “Today, leaders on the right and left in the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a clear message: it’s time to put Pennsylvanians back to work. The best way to ensure someone with a criminal past turns away from crime for good is a job. Clean slate legislation will open doors for those who have turned their life around, and make Pennsylvania a leader with this first-in-the-nation, groundbreaking reform.

“Pennsylvania voters resoundingly support this idea. In our latest poll, 81% of Pennsylvania voters support a ‘clean slate’ proposal that would automatically seal nonviolent criminal records if the person has remained crime-free for 10 years. We are proud to stand with Senators Wagner, Greenleaf and Williams and Representatives Delozier and Harris as they lead the charge on this legislation. Together, we can give millions of Pennsylvanians a chance to find a good job, support their families, and change their lives.”

A recent USJAN poll of Pennsylvanians found overwhelming support for reforming the justice system to break down barriers for those leaving prison:

  • 92% of Pennsylvanians agree we should “break down barriers for ex-offenders so they can get jobs, support their families, and stop being dependent on government services that cost Pennsylvania taxpayers money.”  
  • 81% of Pennsylvanians support a “clean slate” proposal designed to automatically seal non-violent criminal records after a few years if another crime hasn’t been committed. 
  • 84% of Pennsylvanians believes the focus of the justice system should be more on rehabilitation, including 88% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans.

Clean slate legislation has support from national leaders on the right and left: 

Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress: “The Clean Slate bill is a critical aspect of commonsense criminal justice reform. We know that even a minor criminal record can present lifelong barriers to economic security and mobility; yet, people with prior nonviolent convictions who have remained crime-free for three to four years are no more likely to be re-arrested than the general population. Clean Slate is a vital step that will enable thousands of Pennsylvanians to have a second chance. Enabling individuals with low-level nonviolent convictions to earn a clean slate after remaining crime-free means that Pennsylvania could make strides toward cutting down its poverty rate, boosting labor force participation, saving taxpayer dollars through reduced incarceration costs, and increasing public safety. We urge the Pennsylvania House and Senate to swiftly pass this commonsense legislation and send it to Gov. Wolf’s desk.” 

Jason Pye, Director of Public Policy and Legislative Affairs, FreedomWorks: “Any business owner who has ever hired someone knows the impact a criminal record can have on that person’s ability to advance their career. People who made a mistake in the past should have the opportunity to be contributing members of society. Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate legislation helps to provide that opportunity which would increase public safety, reduce the rate people return to prison, and lower the overall cost of the prison system.”