March 29, 2019

Joint Committee on the Judiciary

My name is Nila Bala, and I am
Associate Director of Criminal Justice for the R Street Institute, which is 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 re-entry. That is why Senate Bill
691 is of special interest to us.

Senate Bill 691 — the Clean Slate
initiative — expands current expungement laws in Connecticut, allowing
automatic erasure of convictions for eligible individuals. The R Street
Institute strongly supports automatic record clearance because it supports
human dignity, public safety and our community.

We believe individuals should be held
accountable when they commit a crime. However, punishment must end at some
point. Currently, individuals with criminal records are denied housing,
employment, educational opportunities and the ability to reintegrate with
society because of their records. This serves as a form of ongoing punishment
that does not come with an expiration date.

The problem is vast — an estimated
40,000 people in Connecticut have a criminal record. When these individuals are
denied the basic elements to sustain life — including housing and a source of
income — it is both an affront to human dignity and harms public safety.
Employment in particular is a key factor in reducing recidivism, and those with
criminal records currently have great difficulty in obtaining quality

This bill amends the cumbersome
process that justice-involved individuals must currently undertake to clear
their records. By making expungement automatic after a prescribed number of
years for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, this bill streamlines the
process and makes it accessible for affected individuals. The bill only clears
convictions when individuals have stayed out of trouble, which ensures that individuals
are held accountable but are not perpetually punished.

Moving toward automatic expungement is
not a partisan issue; it’s just good policy. Just last week, a new study
demonstrated that while individuals are often eligible for expungement, very
few currently access this relief. The process is often too expensive and
requires legal expertise to navigate. Senate Bill 691 would remedy this issue.

For these and other reasons, we
support advancing Senate Bill 691.

Thank you for your consideration.

Nila Bala
Associate Director of Criminal Justice Policy
R Street Institute

[email protected]

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