Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed S.B. 166 into law. The legislation will—for the first time—allow some old and minor misdemeanor convictions to be sealed from public view, a move that the Center for American Progress has recommended as part of the road map to begin addressing criminal records and mass incarceration as underappreciated drivers of poverty and inequality in America. Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at CAP, issued the following statement in response:
I applaud the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Wolf for taking this important step to enable people with minor records to have a second chance. Having even a minor criminal record can present lifelong barriers to the basic building blocks of economic security and mobility, such as employment and housing, and can stand in the way of successful re-entry and participation in society. This has broad implications—not only for the individuals who are prevented from moving on with their lives and becoming productive citizens but also for their families, particularly since nearly half of U.S. kids now have a parent with a criminal record.
While S.B. 166 will help thousands of Pennsylvanians move past very old and minor records, it is just the first step toward ensuring that people with criminal records have a fair shot at moving on with their lives and supporting their families. We urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to take the next needed step by adopting a clean slate policy, which would enable individuals with low-level nonviolent misdemeanor convictions to have their records automatically sealed after remaining crime-free for 10 years, thereby showing their rehabilitation. A clean slate policy would enable Pennsylvania to make a sizable dent in its poverty rate, boost labor-force participation, and save taxpayer dollars by dramatically reducing a costly and inefficient workload for the courts—all while increasing public safety.
A bipartisan clean slate bill is expected to be introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly shortly.
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