February 27, 2020

Reschenthaler Calls For Bipartisan Action on Measures to Combat Recidivism

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) called for the House to take up bipartisan measures to combat recidivism, including legislation he introduced with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), the Clean Slate Act (H.R. 2348), which would automatically seal an individual's federal criminal record if they have been convicted of certain nonviolent drug crimes. The bill would also create a streamlined process that allows individuals to petition the courts to seal their records for other qualifying, nonviolent crimes. Reschenthaler spoke about the Clean Slate Act and the importance of addressing recidivism during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security entitled "Returning Citizens: Challenges and Opportunities for Reentry."

"When I served as a district judge in southwestern Pennsylvania, I saw firsthand the revolving door to prison," said Rep. Reschenthaler. "Working on the front lines of our judicial system showed me we can reduce crime by giving these individuals the tools they need to live productive and fulfilling lives. The Clean Slate Act does that by eliminating one of the primary barriers to housing, education, and employment for individuals with criminals records. I will continue to work with Representative Blunt Rochester to get this bill over the finish line so we can help those reentering society fully participate and contribute in their communities."

"We know that if we want to reduce recidivism in this country, it starts with giving citizens who have made a mistake and paid their debt to society a second chance and a clean slate," said Rep. Blunt Rochester. "I'm pleased that the Clean Slate Act that I introduced with Representative Reschenthaler was one of the solutions that the Judiciary Committee considered in our nation's approach to reducing recidivism in today's hearing. I look forward to working with my colleagues in continuing to advance this critical piece of legislation so that the American Dream can become a real possibility for our returning citizens."

"Clean Slate laws allow people to move past their criminal history and get past that barrier to entry, which is crucial for someone who has a criminal record," said Ronald J. Lampard, Senior Director, Criminal Justice Task Force and Civil Justice Task Force, American Legislative Exchange Council. "Not only did Pennsylvania pass it in 2018, but Utah passed it in 2019, and this year Michigan has introduced Clean Slate legislation as well as Washington State. States are realizing how important this is, and it's crucial that Congress take up this issue."

According to one study on federal offenders, nearly 50 percent of returning citizens were rearrested at least once during an eight-year follow-up. Often, even a minor criminal record can lead to barriers in employment, housing, and education, in turn making it more likely that an individual will reoffend. By sealing certain nonviolent criminal records, the Clean Slate Act gives Americans a second chance to live productive and fulfilling lives and reduces recidivism.

The Clean Slate Act will also benefit our national and local economies, as the lifelong barriers associated with having a criminal record are a significant drain on the economy. The Center for Economic Policy Research estimated losses as high as $87 billion to U.S. gross domestic product per year because of these barriers.

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.

"Efforts such as the Clean Slate Act show we can be tough on crime while also being smart on crime," said Reschenthaler. "In reducing recidivism, we are eliminating future crimes and making our communities safer and stronger."

The bill is endorsed by a bipartisan coalition including the American Conservative Union Foundation, FreedomWorks, and the Center for American Progress.

Watch Reschenthaler's opening statement here.