Reschenthaler, Blunt Rochester Introduce Clean Slate Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) reintroduced the Clean Slate Act, legislation they also collaborated on in the 116th Congress. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Senate companion bill earlier this week. 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.
“Nearly one in three American adults have some type of criminal record, often low-level, nonviolent offenses, that present significant obstacles to employment, as well as housing and education,” said Reschenthaler. “It is even more important to pass this bill and empower Americans to reignite our economy by re-entering the workforce as our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. During my time in the State Senate, I helped Pennsylvania pass its own Clean Slate law to end the revolving door between jail and the streets, and I am proud to continue that effort at the federal level. I look forward to working with Representative Blunt Rochester to get this legislation over the finish line and provide individuals who have already paid their debts to society with a fresh start.”
“Since coming to Congress, the Clean Slate Act has been one of my top priorities. With 9 in 10 employers 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. “I’m proud to once again join with my colleague Rep. Reschenthaler to re-introduce the Clean Slate Act in the 117th Congress. Every year this desperately needed legislation gains more and more momentum, and I’m hopeful that this will be the year that we send the bill to President Biden’s desk for signature.”
“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 one in three 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.