Washington D.C. — Today, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed first-in-the-nation bipartisan clean slate legislation that will automatically seal certain minor nonviolent misdemeanor records for people who stay crime-free for 10 years, as well as arrest records that never led to conviction, without a waiting period. The Center for American Progress is proud to have worked with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia to develop the clean slate model originally proposed in its “One Strike and You’re Out” report. In response, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of CAP, released the following statement:
I applaud the Pennsylvania Legislature and Governor Tom Wolf (D) for taking this historic step and becoming the first state in the nation to enact clean slate legislation. Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Act will allow hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to finally have the second chance they deserve. Even a minor criminal record can present lifelong barriers to nearly every basic building block of economic security and mobility—such as housing, employment, education and training, and more—standing in the way of successful re-entry and participation in society. By enabling people with low-level nonviolent convictions to automatically earn a clean slate after they remain crime-free, Pennsylvania stands to make a sizable dent in its poverty rate, to increase labor force participation, and to save taxpayer dollars through reduced incarceration costs—all while boosting public safety. CAP is proud to have worked with our partner, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and a broad bipartisan coalition over the past three years to help Pennsylvania become the first state to pass legislation of this kind. Other states are already following Pennsylvania’s lead by taking up their own clean slate bills, and now leaders in Congress are poised to learn from Pennsylvania’s example by introducing clean slate legislation for minor nonviolent federal records. America must no longer be a country where a minor criminal record can be a life sentence to poverty.
After signing the bill, Gov. Tom Wolf released the following statement:
I am proud to sign this legislation that 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. I’m especially pleased that Pennsylvania is the first state to pass clean slate and that it passed in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner. I thank the General Assembly and the many advocates and stakeholders who made this possible.
Malcolm Jenkins, co-founder of the Players Coalition and defensive captain for the Philadelphia Eagles, released the following statement in response to the bill signing:
Last fall, we learned that 1 in 3 Pennsylvanian adults have a criminal record. Our criminal justice system should be designed so that individuals who have paid their debt to society have done just that and don’t continue to pay due to the stigma of having a record. It was important to Chris (Long), Torrey (Smith), and myself, as members of the Players Coalition, to advocate for the Clean Slate Act, for the thousands of Pennsylvanians whose daily obstacles include securing employment, housing, and/or educational opportunities. This is commonsense reform, and we are pleased the bill received bipartisan support. This should be a model for other states to introduce similar legislation so that more people can become contributing members to society.
- All Pennsylvanians Will Benefit from a Clean Slate Policy for Minor Criminal Records
- One Strike and You’re Out by Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich
- Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents with Criminal Records and Their Children by Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach, Rachel West, and Jackie Odum
- A Criminal Record Shouldn’t Be a Life Sentence to Poverty by Jasmine Hardy, Betsy Pearl, and Rebecca Vallas
For more information on the Clean Slate Act or to speak with an expert, please contact Rafael J. Medina at gro.ssergorpnacirema@anidemjr or 202.478.5313.