Blunt Rochester’s Bipartisan Clean Slate Act Introduced in Senate
The bipartisan, bicameral legislation would remove barriers to employment for millions of Americans, giving folks with past nonviolent and low-level crimes a second chance
Washington, April 27, 2021 | Andrew Donnelly (302-893-4406 )
WASHINGTON - Today, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester’s (D-Del.) Clean Slate Act, which the Congresswoman introduced in the 115th and 116th Congress was officially introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Blunt Rochester plans to reintroduce the House version of the Clean Slate Act with Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), when the House comes back into session. The bill’s introduction coincides with National Reentry Week and “Second Chance” Month.
The bipartisan and bicameral Clean Slate Act will give more than 70 million Americans with low-level and nonviolent criminal records a second chance to fully participate in society.
The legislation would remove major barriers for many Americans in finding employment, securing housing, and accessing education by automatically sealing the federal records of individuals convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses after they successfully complete their sentence.
The Delaware version of Clean Slate SB 111, led by State Senator Darius Brown, is scheduled to be considered in the Delaware State Senate later this week.
“Since coming to Congress, the Clean Slate Act has been one of my top priorities. With 9 in 10 landlords conducting background checks, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 universities doing the same, we know how critical it is to give those who have served their time and paid their debt to society a clean slate and a second chance,” said Blunt Rochester. “That’s why I’m so pleased that this bipartisan effort has now been introduced in the Senate by Senators Casey and Ernst. We know that the Clean Slate isn’t just the right thing to do - it’s the smart thing to do. Tearing down barriers and creating economic opportunity for millions of Americans across the country is even more critical as we look to recover, rebuild, and restore in the wake of COVID. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle and across Congress to pass this much-needed legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk.”
“In the digital era, even a minor criminal record can be a life sentence to poverty and joblessness that no judge ever handed down. While most states allow at least some records to be cleared, to allow people to move on with their lives and provide for their families, it’s long past time policymakers brought record-clearing to the federal level. This historic legislation would, for the first time, create a path to clearing federal records by petition, while establishing automatic record-clearance starting with low-level federal drug records—an impactful platform to build on,” said Rebecca Vallas, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress. “This legislation could not be more timely or urgently needed, as our nation seeks to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Workers with records were already facing double-digit unemployment rates pre-pandemic, when the overall unemployment rate was 3 to 4 percent. We’ll never ‘build back better’ if we leave behind 70 million people with criminal records. Removing barriers to employment for workers with records is critical to ensuring a full and equitable recovery.”
“People who have paid their debt to society for low-level, nonviolent offenses deserve to be welcomed back into society. This is precisely the goal of the criminal justice system. We want people to pay their debts and amend their lives. Those who do it, should be rewarded and restored—for their good, their families’ good, and in the best interest of our communities and our states,” said Patrick Purtill, Director of Legislative Affairs, Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Sealing the records of low-level, nonviolent ex-offenders after they have successfully completed their sentences will help reduce recidivism, strengthen families and communities, and provide a pathway to redemption for people who want to reform their lives.”
“JPMorgan Chase is committed to giving people with criminal backgrounds a second chance through inclusive hiring and by supporting common sense public policy measures like the Clean Slate Act,” said Heather Higginbottom, President, PolicyCenter, JPMorgan Chase & Co. “Creating a process for clearing low-level nonviolent federal records, and streamlining the process through automation, will help people get their foot in the door, pursue stable career pathways and give back to their communities.”
More than 1 in 3 adults have some form of a criminal record, keeping them from participating in many facets of everyday life as nearly nine in ten employers, four in five landlords and three in five colleges utilize background checks to screen applicants.
Currently, the federal government lacks any meaningful way to clear federal criminal records, regardless of whether they resulted in an actual conviction. The Clean Slate Act aims to address this issue by automatically sealing federal arrest records for individuals not convicted and records for individuals convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses after successfully completing their sentence. It would also establish new procedures to allow individuals to petition to seal records for other nonviolent offenses that are not automatically sealed.
The Clean Slate Act is endorsed by Americans for Tax Reform, Brennan Center for Justice, Business Roundtable, Center for American Progress, Code for America, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Due Process Institute, Faith and Freedom Coalition, JPMorgan Chase, Justice Action Network, R Street Institute, Responsible Business Initiative, and Right on Crime.
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