Clean slate legislation would give people a second chance

HARRISBURG, April 13 – State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., today joined a bipartisan group of legislators including Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, and Sens. Scott Wagner, R-York, and Anthony Williams, D-Phila., district attorneys, and advocates to introduce first-of-its-kind clean slate legislation that would allow automatic sealing of criminal records in certain cases in Pennsylvania.

“This legislation goes hand-in-hand with the criminal record expungement legislation Governor Tom Wolf signed earlier this year and is really just the next step in the process of helping people move on from past mistakes,” Harris said. “It’s all in support of the basic concept of giving people a second chance. Those who have made mistakes earlier in their life and been punished do not deserve to be defined by those mistakes and continually punished for the rest of their lives. If they’ve walked the straight and narrow and learned from their mistake, they deserve a clean slate.”

House Bill 1984 would implement automatic sealing of records for those who have been convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors and remained crime-free for 10 years or those who have been convicted of summary offenses and been crime-free for five years. The bill differs slightly from S.B. 166, signed into law as Act 5, in that it would automatically seal criminal records, thereby retaining police access to the record and relieving the overburdened court system with the workload necessary when a petition is filed to expunge a record. It also includes first-degree misdemeanors, which aren’t included in Act 5.

“There are lifelong consequences of having a criminal record that can impact the ability to find a job, quality housing or even attain higher education,” Harris said. “This is about helping people better themselves and their community and if someone is trying to do that, we should do everything possible to ensure they're successful."

The bipartisan legislation is supported by Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, FreedomWorks, ACLU, Right on Crime, and the Faith & Freedom Coalition.