April 24, 2019

Reschenthaler, Blunt Rochester Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reduce Recidivism, Provide Economic Opportunity

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) have introduced H.R. 2348, the Clean Slate Act, which aims to reduce recidivism and give Americans a second chance to live productive and fulfilling lives. This bipartisan legislation would automatically seal an individual's federal criminal record if they have been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, and it would create a streamlined procedure that allows individuals to petition the courts to seal records for other qualifying, nonviolent crimes.

"In Pennsylvania alone, approximately three million individuals, or over a third of working age citizens, have criminals records. Although many of these are the result of low-level, nonviolent offenses, criminal records can present a significant obstacle to employment, housing, and education," said Reschenthaler. "I look forward to working alongside Representative Blunt Rochester to ensure that those in our country who made mistakes in the past but have rehabilitated themselves and paid their debts to society, receive a clean slate and an opportunity to fully participate and contribute to our country's economy."

"If our goal is to reduce recidivism and improve the lives of millions of Americans, we cannot allow hardworking and reformed citizens to be defined by their worst mistakes in life. With an inerasable criminal record, they are locked out of the American Dream. It becomes harder to get a good-paying job, pursue education or training, and own a home. This creates a system that leaves people hopeless and trapped in a cycle of poverty, and it is time we broke that cycle," said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. "The Clean Slate Act would ensure that anyone who pays their debt to society and stays on the straight and narrow can earn a second shot at a better life for themselves and their family. If enacted, this legislation would make meaningful strides in filling the 7.1 million unfilled jobs in our country and improving the everyday lives of 100 million Americans who have past records. I am honored to introduce this legislation alongside Congressman Reschenthaler, and I look forward to working with him to pass the Clean Slate Act and galvanize states across the country to take up similar criminal justice reform efforts."

One in three Americans – over 100 million people – now have some type of criminal record. Even a minor criminal record can lead to barriers in employment, housing, and education. According to the Center for American Progress, roughly nine in 10 employers, four in five landlords, and three in five colleges are now using background checks. The lifelong barriers associated with having a criminal record are a significant drain on the national economy; the Center for Economic Policy Research estimated losses as high as $87 billion to U.S. gross domestic product per year.

The Clean Slate Act would also:

  • Require, within 180 days, automatic sealing of arrest records and other related records for individuals that have been acquitted, exonerated, or never had charges filed against them.
  • Create a two-year window for individuals to re-petition the court if their initial request was denied.
  • Authorize district courts to appoint a public defender to help indigent petitioners file and successfully seal their records.
  • Protect employers from liability for any claim arising out of the misconduct of an employee if the misconduct relates to a sealed criminal record.

It is important to note that the Clean Slate Act would not allow sex offenders, those convicted of terrorism, treason, or other national security-related offenses, or those convicted of other violent crimes to seal their records.

"Once Americans complete their sentences and demonstrate they have not committed any additional crimes after release, they deserve the opportunity to become productive members of society," said Reschenthaler. "By supporting the Clean Slate Act, we can give Americans a second chance to live productive and fulfilling lives."

Click here for the full legislative text, and click here for a fact sheet. The bill is endorsed by the Center for American Progress, FreedomWorks, and the American Conservative Union Foundation.