Syrita Bowen News, Pennsylvania, Press

Half of Pennsylvania Courts’ Criminal Records Database to Be Sealed Thanks to First-In-Nation Clean Slate Act

HARRISBURG, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf and a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced that Pennsylvania’s courts will begin automatically sealing more than 30 million criminal records – half of their entire database – as a result of the Commonwealth’s first-in-the-nation Clean Slate Act, which becomes effective today. The Governor, elected officials, and criminal justice reform advocates celebrated this historic milestone at a press conference today, as Pennsylvania becomes the first state in the country to use an automated process to seal certain criminal records and offer second chances for individuals with low-level offenses. This will mean increased access to employment, housing, and a brighter future for countless Pennsylvanians.

“As the automatic sealing of criminal records goes into effect today, I am reminded that Clean Slate is just one part of our larger push for criminal justice reform, and already we’re seeing signs of success,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Our prison population is declining while our crime rates are at the lowest in a generation and that’s good for everyone. There’s still more we can do to help ensure a fair, just society, even for law offenders and I’m optimistic we can continue to work in a bipartisan way to identify and tackle issues in our criminal justice system.”

Individuals who had their charges dropped, were found not guilty, or were convicted of certain summaries or nonviolent misdemeanors (after remaining crime-free for 10 years) will have their cases sealed from public view, allowing them to apply for jobs and housing without the stigma of a criminal record hanging over them. Pennsylvania courts will seal 2.5 million cases a month and have a full year to finish sealing all eligible records.

“Automated record sealing is a critical step in the ongoing fight for criminal justice reform,” said Senator Bob Casey. “Too many Pennsylvanians are burdened by criminal records for minor, outdated convictions and arrests that did not even result in a conviction. Automatically sealing these records will ensure that these Pennsylvanians have a fair shot at securing gainful employment, housing and education. I applaud Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly for being leaders on this issue and I look forward to continuing to work to introduce automated sealing legislation in the United States Senate.”

“Thanks to the first-of-its kind Clean Slate law, more than 30 million records will be sealed, and the doors of opportunity will open up for those that have earned their second chance, providing critical access to jobs, housing, and other opportunities,” said Jenna Moll, Deputy Director of the Justice Action Network. “Governor Wolf, Representative Sheryl Delozier, Representative Jordan Harris, Senator Anthony Williams, former Senators Scott Wagner and Stewart Greenleaf, and so many others put policy and people before partisanship, and worked together to chart a new path for Pennsylvania, one focused on redemption and rehabilitation. Already, other states are seeking to follow the Commonwealth’s lead, and countless Pennsylvanians are better off today than they were yesterday.”

“Pennsylvania continues to lead the way on developing commonsense reform like the Clean Slate program,” said Representative Sheryl Delozier. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the Commonwealth. Sealing nonviolent infractions after someone has paid for his or her crime helps that person seek employment or housing on a level playing field.”

“Today represents the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and collaboration between Representative Sheryl Delozier, me and countless other legislators and advocates who are looking to help those who have paid their debt to society truly get their second chance,” said Representative Jordan Harris. “This first-of-its-kind legislation put Pennsylvania on the map as a national leader in positive criminal justice reform and shows that we’re serious about the benefits criminal justice reform has for all taxpayers. One of the most exciting aspects of today is that we’re not done. The appetite is there to help Pennsylvanians who have paid their debt to society get the opportunities they need to contribute positively to their community and support their families.”

Press Conference Participants Included:

  • Governor Tom Wolf
  • Representative Sheryl Delozier (R-88)
  • Representative Jordan Harris (D-186)
  • Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46)
  • Gene Barr, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry
  • “Clean Slate” beneficiaries
  • Jenna Moll, Justice Action Network (JAN)
  • Sharon Dietrich, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia 
  • Rebecca Vallas, Center for American Progress (CAP)
  • Tom Darr, Court Administrator, Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts
  • Fran Chardo, District Attorney, Dauphin County, on behalf of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys  Association
  • Matt Smith, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
  • Liz Randol, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – PA
  • Laryssa Gaughen, Community Engagement Director, Americans For Prosperity (AFP) – PA

Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law was passed with near-unanimous bipartisan support in the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Wolf on June 28, 2018. While many individuals have already begun benefitting from the legislation, the automatic record sealing portion of the bill was not effective until today, June 28, 2019. Starting today, courts will use an automated process to seal certain criminal records, including all charges that were dropped or where individuals were found not guilty, as well as summary and minor misdemeanor convictions that are ten years old. Sealed cases can be viewed by law enforcement, but not by the public.