The issue: A plan that would clear certain criminal records automatically was introduced in 2019 but died in the Connecticut General Assembly. The proposal would only apply to people with nonviolent convictions and would help clear a path to acquiring housing and employment after a sentence had been served.
The state of Connecticut has a process that allows ex-offenders to have their records expunged, but it’s cumbersome and can be difficult to navigate without legal help, which is expensive. The state has no requirement to provide explanations when a claim is denied. Clean Slate would take the existing process and make it automatic.
Expunging a record does not mean destroying data, but it does mean it would be hidden to anyone doing a basic background check. It would not remove media reports from websites, which are usually only hidden on request of the named individual if charges are dropped, and not because a sentence has been served.
What we said: “The predictable outcome is that people who are unable to get by legitimately end up returning to crime. Clearing their past convictions helps not only the offenders, but society at large by reducing crime in the future. …
“As state Sen. Dennis Bradley accurately pointed out, there’s a strong element of racial justice in the bill. ‘What we don’t want to see, because you are a person of color and because you are poor, that a conviction follows you forever,’ the Bridgeport legislator said.”
April 11, 2019
What happened: Gov. Ned Lamont said this week he will reintroduce the bill in the 2020 session, and the governor’s backing could be key to getting the bill passed. What’s vital is that it is not left until the last minute, when proposals that seem to have strong support can wither and die in the session’s closing days for unclear reasons as seemingly more pressing matters take focus.
That’s why it’s important that Lamont has put his weight behind the plan, which could make a real difference in the lives of people who have been fighting their whole lives to overcome a criminal conviction in their past.
What’s next: Organizers that backed the bill last session, including CONECT, which brings together congregations from across religions to push for social change, will again need to focus their considerable efforts on moving the bill forward.
About 5,000 people in Connecticut will return to society from prison in a given year, and nearly all of them will face restrictions on employment, school applications and housing. The economic loss alone from fewer people able to work is substantial, and the state needs all the help it can get to boost its economy.
If it passes, the law would automatically expunge the records of ex-offenders three years after completing a sentence for a misdemeanor and five years after a nonviolent felony, all provided there is no trouble in the interim. It could mean the difference between a productive life after prison and a revolving door to the criminal justice system. Lawmakers should see that the bill passes.