Did you know that one out of every three Americans has some form of a criminal
record that shows up on a background check? That’s the same number
of people as those who have a college degree. Yet for those with a criminal
record, life is certainly a lot more difficult, especially when it comes
to finding employment or a place to live. That’s because more than
90 percent of all business run background checks on employees before making
hiring decisions, something that has become much easier and cost-effective
with the introduction of new technology.
Now, Pennsylvania legislators are hoping to make that same technology work
to help people seal their criminal histories and move on with their lives
as well. A bipartisan bill, dubbed the Clean Slate Act, is working its
way through the state legislature and would allow for an expedited record
sealing process that utilizes existing technology to expedite record sharing,
save costs, and lead to quicker decisions. The hope is that this will
encourage more people who qualify to have their criminal history sealed
to actually pursue the option.
Those who don’t even realize they’re eligible to have their
records sealed would benefit the most. Under the new law, the system would
scour the record books each month for those who have become eligible to
have their records sealed and pull them. The records administrator would
then send them electronically to the Pennsylvania State Police. Law enforcement
then have 30 days to cross-reference the records with their own database
to spot any conflicts. Those whose records are approved would then receive
a letter in the mail saying their record has been sealed, and no further
action is required. Everything would be done automatically.
The good news for Pennsylvania residents is that both Republicans and Democrats
are virtually in agreement on the bill. Republicans in particular are
attracted to how much it would shrink state spending. Even the Pennsylvania
District Attorney’s Association, which usually stands in the way
of many criminal justice reform efforts, hasn’t opposed the bill.
The Pennsylvania State Police have even had a hand in crafting the bill.
While the bill hasn’t yet passed, Pennsylvania may be about to set
a new example that the rest of the country can follow.