In SUPPORT of SB22-099 “AN ACT to expand the procedure for the sealing of criminal records for nonviolent offenses, and in connection therewith, protects the misuse of information by third-party vendors, addressing workforce shortages and minimizing barriers to employment for job seekers.

by Christi M. Smith
Feb 24, 2022
issues: Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties, Reentry
Testimony from:

Christi M. Smith, Fellow, Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties, R Street Institute

In SUPPORT of SB22-099 “AN ACT to expand the procedure for the sealing of criminal records for nonviolent offenses, and in connection therewith, protects the misuse of information by third-party vendors, addressing workforce shortages and minimizing barriers to employment for job seekers.”

February 24, 2022

Senate Judiciary Committee

Chairman and members of the committee,


Thank you for considering my testimony. My name is Christi M. Smith; I conduct research in the area of probation, parole/reentry and community corrections for the R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government in many areas, including criminal justice reform, and that is why SB22-099 is of special interest to us.


Colorado currently has a population of approximately 5.8 million citizens. An estimated two million residents have a criminal record; 1.7 million have a criminal conviction.[1] According to a 2020 report, 353,528 crimes were reported that year, 92.5 percent of which were non-violent offenses.[2] An overwhelming majority of the individuals charged and convicted of minor offenses face a lifetime of social penalties that subject them to a perpetual state of punishment. Their criminal history becomes the ball and chain from which they are never totally free, despite serving their sentence and fulfilling all of their legal obligations.


The consequence of having a criminal record, especially in a digital world, forever compromises one’s ability to secure the most basic needs that are necessary for the stability of themselves and their dependents. Individuals convicted of past crimes, who have paid their debt to society are often excluded from certain educational, vocational and housing opportunities as a result of their criminal record, regardless of the severity of the offense or the amount of time passed since it occurred. The availability of public records and the ease of access makes it nearly impossible for people to establish a non-criminal identity wherein they are no longer judged by their worst decision(s). Absent the ability to achieve traditional societal goals by conventional means, formerly convicted individuals may default to illegal means to support themselves and their loved ones, as evidenced by the low rates of recidivism among people who have received record expungements.[3]


The persistent barriers to stability are reflected in the disproportionately higher rates of unemployment, poverty and homelessness found in convicted populations.[4] The burden of a criminal record then shifts from the individual to the community when fewer people are considered eligible for employment due to their criminal history. Less people contributing to the local economy means less money for local businesses and more money needed to subsidize food and housing needs. The indirect, collateral costs of crime for those who have served their sentence and remain law-abiding for a reasonable time period after the expiration of their term unnecessarily weakens the economy.[5]


According to a 2020 report by the Common Sense Institute, the cost of crime in Colorado was an estimated $27 billion, with the projection that this number would increase in 2021.[6] Colorado’s current record-sealing process contributes to this cost and hurts economic stability, which is why SB22-099 is so important.[7] The existing petition-based record-sealing process is insufficient to meet the needs of all Coloradans; including businesses desperately in need of employees, individuals with prior criminal records who are seeking employment and those whose taxes are needed to support state subsidies.


In Colorado, three out of every 10 state residents are burdened with a record which prohibits their ability to find work and support themselves and their families. While approximately 1.3 million people are eligible to have their criminal record sealed, the cumbersome process and expense results in only 5 percent of eligible persons pursuing record sealing.[8] SB22-099 can resolve this by automatically sealing records for qualified individuals, by protecting people from information misuse by third-party vendors, and by clarifying and streamlining the record-sealing process.


An overwhelming majority of Coloradans—72 percent—support clean slate legislation, as do more than 80 diverse organizations and businesses across party lines.[9] Citing research indicating that the removal of economic barriers for people with a criminal record can reduce recidivism rates, the 2021 Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Annual Report also recommends the creation and implementation of an automatic record-sealing process for certain offenses.[10] The enactment of SB22-099 represents a smart policy approach that can restore access to conventional resources for economic and housing stability for the more than one million formerly convicted Coloradans. The bill benefits the economy by supplying a larger pool of potential employees to businesses critically in need of workers and it can reduce poverty-related recidivism among a historically ostracized portion of the population.



Thank you for your time,


Christi M. Smith, PhD

Fellow, Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties

R Street Institute


[email protected]



[1] Colleen Chien et al., “The Colorado Second Chance Sealing Gap,” The Paper Prisons Initiative, last accessed Feb. 22, 2022. https://paperprisons.org/states/pdfs/reports/The%20Colorado%20Second%20Chance%20Sealing%20Gap.pdf.

[2] Colorado Bureau of Investigation, “2020 Statewide Crime Statistics Available,” Department of Public Safety, March 9, 2021. https://cbi.colorado.gov/news-article/2020-statewide-crime-statistics-available.

[3] J.J. Prescott and Sonja B. Starr, “The Power of a Clean Slate,” Crime & Public Safety, Summer 2020. https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/2020-06/regulation-v43n2-3.pdf.

[4] Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich, “One Strike and You’re Out,” Center for American Progress, Dec. 2, 2014. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/one-strike-and-youre-out.

[5] Cherrie Bucknor and Alan Barber, “The Price We Pay: Economic Costs of Barriers to Employment for Former Prisoners and People Convicted of Felonies,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 2016. https://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/employment-prisoners-felonies-2016-06.pdf

[6]George Brauchler et al., “The Colorado Crime Wave: An Economic Analysis of Crime and the Need for Data Driven Solutions,” Common Sense Institute, December 2021. https://commonsenseinstituteco.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/CSI_CRIME_FULL-REPORT_DEC2021_FINAL49.pdf.

[7] “Clean Slate Colorado Fact Sheet,” Clean Slate Colorado, last accessed Feb. 22, 2022. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UhjyDlkYIyRnlpF7xttTio_QniGBzFzV/view.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Kim English et al., “2021 Annual Report,” Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, last accessed Feb 22, 2022. https://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ors/docs/reports/2021_CCJJAnnRpt.pdf.

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