STATEMENT: CAP’s Rebecca Vallas Applauds Introduction of Federal Clean Slate Legislation

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) introduced the bipartisan Clean Slate Act. The Clean Slate Act would automatically seal federal criminal records for Americans with low-level nonviolent drug charges, including all nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. In the digital era, even a minor record can be a life sentence to poverty, with nearly 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges now using background checks to screen applicants’ criminal records.

Following the introduction of federal Clean Slate legislation, Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP and one of the co-originators of the clean slate policy, released the following statement:

Following decades of overcriminalization, as many as 1 in 3 Americans now have some type of criminal record. In today’s digital era, any criminal record—even an old marijuana conviction—can stand in the way of jobs, housing, education, and more for years. As our nation reckons with the toll that mass incarceration and the war on drugs have taken on communities across the country—particularly low-income communities and communities of color—our policymakers must not only prioritize sentencing reforms but also policies to ensure that families and communities ravaged by the war on drugs can move on with their lives and have a fair shot at a better life. By automatically sealing marijuana records and other nonviolent federal drug offenses—and, for the first time, creating a path to clearing other federal records by petition—the Clean Slate Act would help people get back to work, lift families out of poverty, and interrupt the cycle of economic instability and recidivism trapping countless individuals and families in the justice system today.

As bipartisan clean slate reforms gain momentum in state legislatures across the country, I am thrilled to see Congress doing its part to enable people with federal records to move on with their lives as well. The Center for American Progress applauds Reps. Blunt Rochester and Reschenthaler for their leadership in introducing the bipartisan Clean Slate Act. As more and more states adopt smart-on-crime reforms to their justice systems, lawmakers at all levels of government must ensure that a criminal record is no longer a life sentence to poverty.

The introduction of federal Clean Slate legislation comes on the heels of state-level progress on clean slate: Both Pennsylvania and Utah have signed clean slate policies into law within the past year; California and Connecticut legislatures are considering clean slate bills; and more states are expected to introduce clean slate legislation in the coming months. CAP is proud to partner with a bipartisan group of more than 25 organizations to support the passage of clean slate legislation nationwide.

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For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at or 202-495-3682.