States across the country are taking action to enact clean slate policies. This toolkit includes the following ways to join the campaign and take action: talking points, frequently asked questions, sample op-eds, sample letters to the editor, and sample social media and shareable graphics.
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) joined forces to introduce federal legislation known as the Clean Slate Act. The bill would automatically seal nonviolent marijuana offenses and simple possession of other drugs for people who have paid their debt to society. At a time when common ground between congressional Democrats and Republicans is rare, the Clean Slate Act is an opportunity to work across the aisle and remove barriers to employment, housing, and education for people held back by a drug record. This unlikely team is optimistic that congressional leadership will view the bill as a critically needed step to put second chances within reach.
A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Law School shows the benefits of giving people a clean slate. The good news: Within a year, people who have their criminal records expunged see their wages increase by more than 20 percent, on average. The bad news is that hardly anyone gets expungements because most people aren’t able to navigate the complex legal process. The policy upshot of this research is clear: Lawmakers need to make it much easier for people to actually clear their records and get a fresh start. States should follow the approach of the Pennsylvania Legislature and the recently introduced Utah and California bills and make expungement automatic once the legal requirements are met.
Utah lawmakers pass the ‘clean slate’ bill to automatically clear the criminal records of people who earn an expungement
Clean slate legislation has passed both chambers of the Utah Legislature, setting Utah up to become the second state in the country to automatically clear certain criminal records. Sponsored by state Rep. Eric Hutchings (R), clean slate legislation is a second chance for Utahans who have been shut out of the labor market and housing and education opportunities. The legislation is currently awaiting the signature of Gov. Gary Herbert (R).
In March 2019, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and Assemblyman Phil Ting announced a clean slate legislation proposal, A.B. 1076, in California. An estimated 8 million people in California have a criminal record, which can make it almost impossible to find work and housing or to get an education. Although California already has a process in place that allows people to clear their criminal records, many people do not know that they are eligible, cannot afford the fees required, or need an attorney’s help to navigate the system. Marking an important step forward in the state’s criminal justice reform efforts, clean slate legislation would modernize the criminal justice system by automatically clearing the criminal records of people who have paid their debt to society.
Even after people have paid their debt to society, a criminal record can haunt them for life, much like a scarlet letter. In Michigan, around 500,000 people with criminal records face barriers to housing, education, and employment every day. Though many are eligible to have their records cleared, as much as 95 percent of people do not apply for the process, which is costly and time-consuming. Clean slate legislation would automate the record-clearing process, removing the scarlet letter for thousands of Michiganders and providing them a real second chance at life.