With judicial reform atop the agenda of statehouses across the country and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., political leaders from the Mid-Atlantic region are working to push “clean slate” legislation nationwide.
State Rep. Jordan Harris (D-186) and Players Coalition co-founder Malcolm Jenkins, a safety on the Philadelphia Eagles, recently joined the Center for American Progress to announce the launch of a national bipartisan clean slate campaign.
“So many people have done what was legally required of them, but have been unable to become fully productive citizens again,” Harris said in a press release. “Taking this movement nationwide will improve the economy, create jobs and provide hope to those who had a criminal conviction from decades past and have turned their lives around.”
The campaign will support local organizations working to advance the clean slate agenda, which aims to automate the clearing of some criminal records at the state and county levels. Investments also will support research to help the criminal justice community make more informed and equitable decisions regarding record-clearing.
U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) has been trying to get reform passed in Congress. Earlier this year, she introduced House Resolution 6677, also known as the Clean Slate Act.
Under the proposed law, a person’s federal record would automatically be sealed if they have been convicted of a nonviolent offense under Section 404 of the Controlled Substances Act and any federal nonviolent offense, such as marijuana possession.
Between 70 million and 100 million of the 326 million Americans have some type of criminal record, according to research from The Sentencing Project.
Communities of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals; and people with histories of abuse or mental illness are disproportionately affected, The Sentencing Project reports. Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.
Individuals with criminal records can encounter restrictions on jobs, housing, credit and other basics. The Sentencing Project reports that more than 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed a year after their release, and those who find jobs earn about 40 percent less pay annually.
The Center for American Progress’ campaign “seeks to undo the effects of one-sided policy that has been in place across the country for decades,” Harris said.
The Keystone State became the first in the country to automatically seal misdemeanor records in June, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Act.
“Now, Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Act is using technology to automatically clear criminal records after someone remains crime-free for a set period of time,” Jenkins said in a press release from the Center for American Progress. “People don’t need lawyers, they don’t need to pay a fee, they don’t need to understand the legal system.”
Jenkins said he and the other members of his organization were proud to see the Pennsylvania legislature pass the Clean Slate Act and have been excited to see other states follow suit.
“Just because you made a mistake in the past doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to contribute in the future,” he said.