(Photo by Flickr user Rob Best, used under a Creative Commons license)
Last month, Philadelphia passed a new fair hiring law that prevents employers from seeing criminal convictions from seven years ago or longer.
Advocates agreed: It was a step in the right direction, but passing “Clean Slate” laws was the next.
“Under Clean Slate, there would be automatic sealing of many more convictions without the need to pay $135 to file a petition asking a court for expungement,” Community Legal Services attorney Brandon Lynch said at the time.
With bipartisan support, two identical Clean Slate bills have just been introduced in both the Pennsylvania Senate and House that seal the following from public use:
- Misdemeanor convictions after 10 years (except for violent and sexual offenses)
- Juvenile adjudications after seven years
- Summary convictions after five years
- Charges that didn’t result in convictions after 60 days
Law enforcement will continue to have access, but if the bills were to be passed, legislation would allow Pennsylvanians who have been rehabilitated by the system to find gainful employment.
According to CLS Litigation Director Sharon Dietrich, old criminal cases no longer reflect those individuals. Yet, their records keep them in poverty.
“Providing a clear record to people who have demonstrated that they have earned it is the best way to help them overcome criminal record barriers,” said Dietrich. “That way, they are not at the mercy of employers, landlords and others to follow the law and not disqualify them for old, minor, irrelevant cases.”
William Cobb, the formerly incarcerated founder of advocacy organization REDEEMED, put it to us like this when Philadelphia’s new fair hiring law was passed:
“We’re talking about America here, where you’re defined by what you do. If you ask somebody what they do and they don’t have a response to that, they don’t feel good about themselves. You feel separated. You feel like a second- or third-class citizen.”-30-
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