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Bipartisan Clean Slate Act Would Remove Barriers to Housing, Employment for Millions of Americans

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) are introducing the Clean Slate Act to give more than 70 million Americans, with nonviolent criminal records, a second chance to fully participate in society. This bipartisan legislation would remove major barriers for many Americans in finding employment, securing housing and accessing education by automatically sealing the federal records of individuals convicted or arrested for simple drug possession. More than 1 in 3 adults have some form of a criminal record, keeping them from participating in many facets of everyday life as nearly nine in ten employers, four in five landlords and three in five colleges utilize background checks to screen applicants.

“Automated record sealing is a critical step in the ongoing fight for criminal justice reform. Too many Americans are not given a second chance at life because they are burdened by criminal records for nonviolent convictions or arrests that did not result in a conviction. With nearly half of U.S. children having at least one parent with a criminal record, automatically sealing these records helps us invest in our Nation’s future by ensuring millions of parents with minor criminal histories, and their families, aren’t prohibited from achieving a successful life,” said Senator Casey.

“Those who have been charged with low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors oftentimes face significant barriers to employment, housing, and other necessities, even after they’ve paid their debt to society. This bipartisan legislation is a commonsense criminal justice reform to give these individuals a second chance, while keeping our communities safe,” said Senator Ernst.

Many states have ways to either seal or expunge some types of criminal records, but there is a considerable gap between those eligible to apply for clearance and those who actually complete the process. The Clean Slate Act aims to reduce this gap by automatically sealing federal arrest records for individuals not convicted and records for individuals convicted of simple drug possession after successfully completing their sentence. It would also establish new procedures to allow individuals to petition to seal records for other nonviolent offenses that are not automatically sealed.

The Clean Slate Act is endorsed by the Center for American Progress, FreedomWorks, Justice Action Network, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Faith & Freedom Coalition, JPMorgan Chase, Business Roundtable and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

Read more about the Clean Slate Act here.