Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, the Delaware General Assembly passed SB 111 and SB 112, positioning Delaware to become the sixth state to enact clean slate automated record-clearing legislation. Following an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the two bills now head to Gov. John Carney’s (D) desk to be signed into law. Following the vote, Rebecca Vallas, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-originator of the clean slate model, issued 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—no matter how old or minor—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 am thrilled to see Delaware join the growing ranks of states reforming their record-clearing systems by making the process automatic and automated. Once Gov. Carney signs SB 111 and SB 112 into law, an estimated 290,000 Delawareans will finally be freed from the never-ending stigma and economic marginalization that accompany a record. By removing government-created barriers to work for Delawareans with records, this legislation will not only put economic opportunity within reach for huge numbers of individuals and families facing the perpetual punishment that comes with a record but also help the state achieve a fuller and more inclusive recovery on the other side of the pandemic.
I offer a hearty congratulations to Delaware state Sen. Darius Brown (D) for his years of tireless advocacy to bring clean slate to Delaware. The bills’ passage is also a testament to the work of the Clean Slate Initiative, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Delaware, the Delaware Coalition for Smart Justice, the Delaware Center for Justice, and Game Changers. CAP applauds the Delaware General Assembly for taking this important step to ensure Delawareans with records are no longer relegated to the ranks of a permanent underclass—and we urge Gov. Carney to swiftly sign these bills into law.
With Gov. Carney’s signature, Delaware joins 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 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. Virginia enacted an automatic record-clearing law in January 2021, and Connecticut passed its own clean slate bill that includes qualifying felonies earlier this month. New Jersey has in place a task force charged with shaping an automated record clearance program for the state, and California has adopted its own prospective-only automated record clearance program. States as diverse as Washington state, North Carolina, Louisiana, and New York state have introduced or passed measures that move toward automated record-clearing, with momentum currently building in many more for states—including in Oregon and Texas—where clean slate campaigns launched earlier this year. Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to create the first federal record-clearing remedy and to automatically clear certain federal records was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate in April 2021.
- “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 tens of millions of old criminal records,” The Economist
- “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
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcisucj.