WASHINGTON (March 6, 2020) – The R Street Institute applauds the introduction of the Clean Slate Act introduced by Governor Lamont in Connecticut in February, as well as the introduction of an additional Clean Slate bill by Senator Winfield. Both bills would automate record expungements (called “absolute pardons” in Connecticut) for those who have been crime-free for seven years. While the bills vary in what offenses they cover, both are clean slate bills. A clean slate policy is much-needed, as the current expungement process is extremely complex and involves applying to the Board of Pardons, which is time consuming and can be expensive if individuals retain an attorney. Only a small number of those eligible for an absolute pardon are able to get their records cleared due to the complexity and expense.
According to R Street Associate Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties Nila Bala, “Expunging records increases public safety by promoting second chances for individuals whose records no longer hold predictive value or significance.” Once a record is expunged, it will no longer show up on background checks, which is used by nine out of ten employers, making it significantly easier for individuals with records to find employment. When individuals are able to maintain stable jobs, their likelihood of committing crime is greatly reduced.
These bills not only promote public safety, but promote economic stability for Connecticut as well. In the United States, one in three people have a criminal record. As Nila states, “The problem is vast—an estimated 40,000 people in Connecticut have criminal records. When these individuals are denied the basic elements needed to sustain life—including housing and a source of income—it is an affront to human dignity and a threat to public safety.” According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States loses between $78 and $87 billion in gross domestic product every year due to the barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals; Connecticut’s portion of this lies between $1 and $1.2 billion. A Clean Slate bill would promote dignity for formerly incarcerated individuals and pave a more prosperous future for the residents of Connecticut.