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Growing Momentum for Clean Slate and Fair Chance Licensing in the States

A Second Chance Month Conversation With State Leaders

Join the conversation on Twitter using #SecondChanceMonth.

In the digital era, the proliferation of criminal background checks and the sharp rise in the share of the population saddled by the stigma of a record—now 1 in 3 U.S. adults—have become major drivers of poverty and racial inequality in the United States. Nine in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges and universities now use background checks to screen out applicants with records, putting economic stability, let alone upward mobility, out of reach for tens of millions of individuals and families affected by the U.S. criminal legal system.

As a result, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn, workers with criminal records were already facing a permanent recession of their own. Indeed, pre-pandemic, the unemployment rate for people with records was in the double digits, while the overall unemployment rate ranged from 3 to 4 percent.

In recognition that a criminal record should not be a life sentence to poverty and joblessness, bipartisan momentum for both “clean slate” automatic record clearance and fair chance licensing has exploded in recent years, with dozens of states advancing these policy reforms to remove barriers to economic security for their justice-impacted residents. As leaders at all levels of government work to “build back better,” removing barriers to employment for workers with records is even more urgently needed amid the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and downturn to ensure not only a full but an equitable recovery that does not leave tens of millions of justice-impacted individuals and families behind.

Please join the Center for American Progress, the National Employment Law Project, and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia for a conversation with several of the state leaders behind recent transformative policy wins that offer a model for state and federal policymakers to put second chances within reach for workers and families facing the stigma of a criminal record.

We would love to hear your questions. Please submit any questions for our distinguished panel via email at CAPeventquestions@americanprogress.org or on Twitter using #SecondChanceMonth. Live captioning will be available on Zoom and on the YouTube livestream.

Distinguished guest:
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Michigan

Panelists:
Rep. Jordan Harris (D), Minority Whip, Pennsylvania General Assembly
Sharon Dietrich, Litigation Director, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
Josh Hoe, Policy Analyst, Safe and Just Michigan
Whitley Carpenter, Criminal Justice Staff Attorney, Forward Justice
Jael Myrickr, Interim Director, Clean Slate Practice, East Bay Community Law Center

Moderator:
Rebecca Vallas, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress