Today, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation that makes Pennsylvania the first state in the country to automatically seal criminal records of minor offenses. The Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan organization working to reform the justice system in Pennsylvania and around the country, applauded this accomplishment as a way to put people back to work and help them turn away from crime for good. If signed into law, Senate Bill 529 would allow for automatic sealing of certain low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors after ten years without subsequent reoffending, eliminating the need for individuals to petition the court.
Holly Harris, Executive Director, Justice Action Network: “We should be doing everything in our power to ensure people with criminal records don’t return to the justice system, including expanding employment opportunities that will keep them on the right track. By passing this legislation unanimously, the Pennsylvania Senate made the Commonwealth the nation’s leader on this initiative. S.B. 529 will reduce recidivism and open doors for those who have turned their lives around. We are grateful for the unique, bipartisan leadership of Senators Scott Wagner (R-28th) and Anthony Williams (D-8th) who worked together to build a massive coalition of support that included over half the Senate and groups as disparate as the Center for American Progress and FreedomWorks. This shows the nation, leaders can still work across the aisle and accomplish meaningful justice reforms.”
S.B. 529 passed the Senate 50-0. The strength of that vote mirrors public support: polling from the Justice Action Network found that nearly 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. The legislation now heads to the House for their consideration.