Still the One: Pennsylvania Boosts Clean Slate Policy

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, October 26th, 2020, 5:44 PM PERMALINK

The Keystone State was the first in the nation to pass “Clean Slate” legislation, which automatically seals the records of most misdemeanor offenses, and charges that did not result in conviction.

Clean Slate has been a big success, and it was clearly overdue. Since the initial bill’s passage in 2018, Pennsylvania has sealed 107,000 records for misdemeanor offenses, and a startling 16 million cases that did not result in a conviction.

It has set an example that other states have followed, Utah and Michigan have both recently passed similar bills. Not one to easily relinquish their head start, Pennsylvania lawmakers approved House Bill 440 just last week. Like the 2018 bill, HB 440 was sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier.

HB 440 enhances the Clean Slate program. Now, anyone who has been unconditionally pardoned, or acquitted, will have their records sealed. Further, fines and fees will not be required before a case is sealed under Clean Slate. Appropriately, restitution is still required.

Clean Slate incentivizes good behavior by reducing unintended consequences for people leaving the system. Having a record makes it more difficult to find work and housing. Helping people become fully functioning members of society is good for them, public safety, and taxpayers.

Those who are finally getting their records sealed must not have committed a crime in the past decade, proving that they will stay on the straight-and-narrow. Research shows the rate of reoffending plummets after 5 years following release. If someone is going to reoffend, they are much more likely to do so in the few years right after they are released, and extremely unlikely to do so after 5-plus years in the community.

More Clean Slate is a good thing, and Pennsylvania continues to lead the way with the passage of HB 440.

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