Washington, D.C. — Last week, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for final passage of “clean slate” automated record-clearing legislation, sending the bill to Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) desk to be signed into law. With the governor’s signature, Connecticut is poised to become the fifth state to enact clean slate automated record-clearing legislation. It would also join Michigan as the second state to automatically clear qualifying felonies as well as misdemeanors, removing barriers to employment, housing, and education for the 1 in 3 Connecticut residents with a criminal record. Following the bill’s passage, Rebecca Vallas, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and one of the co-originators of the clean slate policy model, released the following statement:
In the digital era, with 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges and universities now using background checks to screen applicants, a criminal record can be a life sentence to poverty that no judge ever handed down. While record-clearing remedies such as expungement and sealing offer powerful tools to remove barriers to jobs, housing, and educational opportunities, it can be incredibly difficult in practice to get a record cleared due to the cost and complexity of petition-based record-clearing processes. As a result, research finds that fewer than 10 percent of eligible individuals successfully get their records cleared.
I could not be more thrilled to see the Connecticut Legislature pave the way for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents to finally be liberated from the perpetual punishment and economic marginalization that accompany a criminal record. By removing government-created barriers to work for Connecticut residents with records, this legislation will not only put economic opportunity within reach for huge numbers of individuals and families facing the stigma of a record, but it will also help the state achieve a fuller and more equitable recovery on the other side of the pandemic.
The success of Connecticut’s tremendous clean slate package is a testament to years of tireless work by a remarkable coalition led by CONECT, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. The Center for American Progress applauds the Connecticut Legislature for taking this critically important step to ensure that Connecticut residents with records are no longer relegated to the ranks of a permanent underclass. Gov. Lamont has long been a champion of bringing clean slate to Connecticut, and we urge him to sign this bill into law.
With Gov. Lamont’s signature, Connecticut will join a growing number of states that have embraced automated record-clearing laws as the clean slate model continues to gain traction in red, blue, and purple states alike. Pennsylvania became the first state to automate criminal record-clearing with the 2018 bipartisan Clean Slate Act. In the first year since the law took effect in June 2019, Pennsylvania sealed more than 35 million cases, helping more than 1 million Pennsylvanians move on with their lives. Utah became the second state to enact a clean slate automated record clearance law in March 2019, and Michigan followed suit in October 2020 with what is now the most expansive automated record clearance law in the United States. New Jersey enacted a task force to shape an automated record clearance program for the state, and California has adopted a prospective-only automated record clearance program. States as diverse as Washington, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Delaware have introduced or passed measures that move toward automated record-clearing, with momentum currently building in many more for state 2021 legislative sessions—including in New York, Oregon, and Texas—where clean slate campaigns launched earlier this year. Bipartisan legislation to automatically clear certain federal records has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and was introduced in December 2020 in the U.S. Senate.
- “A Criminal Record Shouldn’t Be a Life Sentence to Poverty” by Rebecca Vallas, Sharon Dietrich, and Beth Avery
- “Advancing Clean Slate: The Need for Automatic Record Clearance During the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Akua Amaning
- “Update to ‘News You Can Use: Research Roundup for Re-Entry Advocates’” by the CAP Poverty Team, Kenny Lo, and Akua Amaning
- “PA Clean Slate: Delivering on Its Promises” by Sharon M. Dietrich, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
- “Criminal records can be a ‘life sentence to poverty.’ This state is automatically sealing some.” by Hannah Knowles, The Washington Post
- “Why states are rushing to seal millions of old criminal records,” The Economist
- “Video: Clean Slate – Jarrett’s Story (Michigan)” by Jasmine Hardy, David Ballard, and Rebecca Vallas
- “The Case for Expunging Criminal Records” by J.J. Prescott and Sonja B. Starr, The New York Times
- “One Strike and You’re Out: How We Can Eliminate Barriers to Economic Security and Mobility for People with Criminal Records” by Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich
- “Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children: A Two-Generation Approach” by Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach, Rachel West, and Jackie Odum
- “Video: ‘I Can Celebrate and Say I’m Free’: How Connecticut’s Clean Slate Act Can Give People a Second Chance” by Jasmine Hardy, David Ballard, and Rebecca Vallas
- Learn more about automated record clearance at CleanSlateInitiative.org and track states’ progress on clean slate policies with the Clean Slate Initiative State Tracker.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Julia Cusick at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcisucj.