UPDATE: Clean Slate, HB 689, passed the Pennsylvania House in an overwhelming 189 to 14 vote.
Lawmakers in the Keystone State have been back working on additional Clean Slate legislation this session that would help address workforce challenges. The bill, Clean Slate 3.0 or HB 689, would expand Pennsylvania’s nation-leading automatic record sealing system.
Pennsylvania was the first state to enact Clean Slate, automatic record sealing for misdemeanor offenses and for charges that did not result in a conviction. Since its passage, over 1.2 million Pennsylvanians have had a record sealed (most of which related to non-convictions). The state’s leadership on this issue has been a key factor in 10 total states passing Clean Slate, with more on the way, as well as numerous other states reforming and expanding their expungement policies.
HB 689 would continue this good work by expanding Clean Slate to nonviolent drug felonies, allowing lower-level drug-related felonies to be sealed after someone has gone at least 10 years without reoffending.
It makes sense that these policies have been successful, and championed by Republican lawmakers, and numerous right-of-center groups and businesses.
Clean Slate supports the rule of law by incentivizing former offenders to stay crime free, and ensuring that the sentence imposed by the government is not endless due to collateral consequences that keep people from working, getting promoted, finding housing, and more.
Clean Slate boosts public safety. Records would be sealed, but the courts can access them and consider them if a person does re-offend. A district attorney can unseal records in a case where someone reoffends. Nothing is being excused, only a hard-earned second chance is offered.
Given the extended period of time required for someone to become eligible for automatic record sealing, the likelihood of anyone who benefits from Clean Slate reoffending is incredibly low. Justice Department figures show that re-arrest for former nonviolent offenders is rare five or more years after release.
These factors are a big reason why law enforcement is supportive, with the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association backing HB 689.
Clean Slate is also a win for the economy. A criminal record can limit someone’s ability to find work or grow in their career. This is bad for taxpayers, the community, and the economy. A good job helps reduce the risk of recidivism. Getting folks back to full employment is a boon for the economy.
A study from University of Michigan law school researchers found people’s wages went up by 20% on average one year after expunging their record, and that former offenders who have expunged their records very rarely break the law.
Additionally, Pennsylvania needs workers. According to the Independent Fiscal Office, the state has lost workers in hospitality, nursing care, manufacturing and more since 2019. And there is “unusually high demand for 105,000 additional workers.”
Clean Slate is a proven, commonsense, and conservative policy to remove unnecessary barriers to work, helping to address these workforce challenges.