Democratic lawmakers to review 'clean slate' law in Pittsburgh
Clean slate legislation, which took effect last year, allows Pennsylvanians to scrub their records of certain nonviolent, low-level offenses. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Pennsylvania’s new “clean slate” law will be the subject of a public hearing Thursday in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The law, which took effect in December, seals lower-level crimes from public view after 10 years.
Democratic state lawmakers will discuss the legislation with corrections and parole officials as well as ex-offenders, among others.
One of the speakers will be University of Pittsburgh public health professor Richard Garland, who served more than 12 years in prison before being released in 1991.
Garland said that by expanding access to jobs, the clean slate law plays a crucial role in preventing low-level ex-convicts from committing future crimes. Before the law, he said, those individuals too often were defined by their criminal records when seeking work.
“And employers, you know, they might not say anything,” he said. “But you know, they throw … that resume and that job application out the window.”
By reducing that risk, Garland added, clean slate legislation boosts ex-offenders’ confidence when they apply for jobs.
“That gives somebody hope,” he said. “This [law], to me, is instilling hope in individuals who didn’t have any hope before.”
Offenders in Pennsylvania must be crime-free for 10 years before they can have their records sealed. Even after the information is sealed, the courts and law enforcement can still see it.
Thursday’s hearing is set to start at noon at the Community Empowerment Association in Homewood. The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and the House Democratic Policy Committee are holding the event.
The speakers are expected to include:
- John Wetzel, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
- Matt Smith, President, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
- Richard Garland, Assistant Professor of Public Health Practice, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity
- Tracey McCants Lewis, Deputy General Counsel and Director of Human Resources, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Carol Ramsey, Pardoned Individual
- T. Rashad Byrdsong, Founder and CEO, Community Empowerment Association
- Theodore Johnson, Chairman, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole
- Bret Grote, Legal Director, Abolitionist Law Center
- Terrell Thomas, Senior Field Organizer, ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice