(Photo by Lance Cheung for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, used via a Flickr Creative Commons license)
Editor’s note: This article, including its headline, has been updated since it was first published with details about the bill’s signing into law.
Legislation that would automatically seal the criminal records of low-level, nonviolent offenders passed in the Pennsylvania Senate on Friday afternoon with a vote of 49-0.
House Bill 1419, aka the Clean Slate bill, affects those with misdemeanors (shoplifting, harassment, disorderly conduct) who earn no further convictions after 10 years. If a person has more than one first-degree misdemeanor on their record, it can be sealed after 15 years; if more than three of any kind, 20 years.
The vote signals a step forward for those with low-level criminal convictions who have had difficulties finding meaningful employment because of their records. The legislation also seals the records of those who have been arrested but faced no convictions.
The bill passed in the Pennsylvania House with a vote of 188-2. The Senate had passed a nearly identical bill almost exactly one year ago that didn’t end up moving to the House.
Community Legal Services (CLS) has been a major proponent of the legislation over the page several years alongside nonpartisan policy institute Center for American Progress (CAP).
“The people who will be helped by Clean Slate were not given a life sentence for their relatively minor cases. But they are serving one just the same,” wrote CLS Litigation Director Sharon Dietrich in a statement. “Clean Slate will do so much good for so many people, at almost no cost.”
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We are thrilled to announce that the #CleanSlate bill has passed! Thank you to the many of you who supported this effort and helped us advocate for our clients. Read our full statement here: https://t.co/T0SwHsui02 #CleanSlateAct #CleanSlatePA pic.twitter.com/yaQX2ImJ9h
— Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (@CLSphila) June 22, 2018
The legislation also was supported nationally by bipartisan criminal justice organization Justice Action Network, which includes members such as CAP, Americans for Tax Reform, the ACLU and the NAACP.
Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins and former Eagles player Torrey Smith, who have both been vocal about the need for criminal justice reform in recent years, shared their support for the legislation, writing in a CNN op-ed this past Thursday:
“We need to stand up for people … who need a second chance by calling our representatives and asking them to encourage their leadership to agree on a final bill to send to the governor before they leave for the summer. Clean Slate won’t fix everything, but it’s a critical step forward.”
Update on June 28: Wolf signed the bill into law today, saying: “I am proud to sign this legislation, which will make it easier for those who have interacted with the justice system to reduce the stigma they face when looking for employment and housing.”-30-
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