STATEMENT: CAP Applauds Introduction of Federal Clean Slate Bill

Washington, D.C. — Last Friday, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced—with bipartisan support—the Clean Slate Act, a bill that would expand second chances by automatically sealing federal criminal records for Americans with low-level nonviolent drug charges, including all nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. After decades of overcriminalization, up to 100 million people now have some kind of criminal record, and even a decades-old misdemeanor can create a lifetime of barriers to employment, housing, education, and benefits. These barriers have serious consequences not only for individuals but also for families: Nearly half of all American kids have a parent with a criminal record, according to CAP analysis. With the Clean Slate Act, these minor criminal records would no longer show up in background checks run by employers, landlords, and universities, opening the door to economic opportunity for countless Americans and their families.

The legislation introduced today builds on the progress of state-level Clean Slate reforms, which have gained momentum since the Center for American Progress and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia developed the Clean Slate policy model in 2014. In June 2018, Pennsylvania enacted the nation’s first Clean Slate law with overwhelming bipartisan support, and other state legislatures are following their lead to consider record-clearing reforms. Rebecca Vallas, vice president for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP, released the following statement in response:

For too long, a criminal record has been a lifetime sentence to joblessness and poverty. By automatically sealing nonviolent drug offenses, the federal Clean Slate Act would help reduce unemployment rates, lift families out of poverty, and interrupt the cycle of economic instability and recidivism. As Clean Slate reforms gain momentum in state legislatures, we are thrilled that Congress is doing its part to seal criminal records at the federal level. Americans overwhelmingly support Clean Slate policies, and CAP applauds Rep. Blunt-Rochester and her fellow lawmakers for embracing this groundswell of public support.

Importantly, today’s legislation would automatically seal federal criminal records for all nonviolent marijuana charges. As more and more states adopt sensible drug policy reforms, lawmakers at all levels of government must ensure that Americans are no longer held back by their old marijuana convictions.

Across state and party lines, Americans have voiced their support for Clean Slate. New polling from CAP and GBA Strategies shows that 70 percent of voters—including two-thirds of Republicans and three-fourths of Democrats—favor record-sealing policies.

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 For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org or 202.495.3682