Blunt Rochester, Blum Introduce Bipartisan, First-in-the-Nation Federal Second Chance Legislation
Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL) and Rod Blum (R-IA-1) introduced H.R. 6677, the Clean Slate Act of 2018 -- a bipartisan, first-in-the-nation bill that provides a second chance to reformed non-violent drug offenders who face lifelong barriers that hinder opportunities in employment, housing, and education.
According to estimates from the Center for American Progress, roughly 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges use background check systems, which can result in a minor record or arrest leading to lifelong societal barriers. By automatically sealing the records of non-violent, marijuana offenders and creating a system for others who have paid their debt to society to have their records sealed, this bill will boost the U.S. economy by as much as $87 billion per year and create opportunities for a second chance for re-entering citizens.
"One of our roles in reforming our criminal justice system is to reduce recidivism and ensure that citizens re-entering society can lead productive lives and contribute to our economy. Yet, too often, sentences place a scarlet letter on those that have served their time -- keeping people and their families trapped in a cycle of lifelong poverty. For millions of Americans, an arrest or minor record can permanently put owning a home, getting an education, or earning a good-paying job just out of reach," said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. "The Clean Slate Act would ensure that anyone who has paid their debts and earned a second shot has the opportunity to create a better life and future for themselves. This bill will also help employers fill the over 6.7 million unfilled jobs in our country -- a win for our economy and society."
"I am honored to introduce this bipartisan legislation, alongside Congressman Blum, because the Clean Slate Act, if enacted, will have a positive impact on millions of families -- building a brighter tomorrow that boosts our economy and reforms our out-of-date criminal justice system. It is my sincere hope that this bill will kickstart conversations about Clean Slate and galvanize citizens to press for change in all fifty states," added Blunt Rochester.
"Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Of the 2.3 million estimated people who are incarcerated in the U.S., over 1.4 million are serving sentences for non-violent offenses. Data shows that over 76% of released inmates have found it difficult or near impossible to find work after serving their sentence,"said Congressman Rod Blum. "The issue is cyclical- if we do not remove barriers and create opportunities for these individuals to re-enter society, we are setting them up to fail. Statistically, these individuals are more likely to fall into habitual crime and end up incarcerated once again without jobs and a support system."
"I am proud to be introducing the bipartisan Clean Slate Act with my colleague, Representative Blunt Rochester," added Blum. "This bill is a common-sense reform that allows for those who have served their prison sentence for any non-violent and non-sexual offense to have their records either automatically sealed or upon request, so they may re-enter the workforce and become productive members of society. I believe these individuals deserve a clean slate if they meet the requirements we have outlined in this bill, and I am proud to be a part of this critical prison reform effort."
Specifically, the Clean Slate Act of 2018 would:
Automatically seal a person's federal record if they have been convicted of a nonviolent offense under section 404 of the Controlled Substances Act (this would include misdemeanor drug crimes like simple possession) and any federal nonviolent offense involving marijuana.
Allow individuals to petition the United States Courts to seal records for nonviolent offenses that are not automatically sealed, excluding violent crime and sex offenses. Currently, there is no system in place to allow individuals to have their record sealed at the federal level unless there is intervention from the President of the United States.
Direct the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to create a universal form, available over the internet and in paper form, that an individual may use to file a sealing petition.
Create a two-year window for individuals to re-petition the court if an initial request was denied. There is no limitation to how many times an individual may petition the courts.
The Clean Slate Act will also help to reverse the long-term societal barriers and consequences created by U.S. drug enforcement policy over the past 40 years, while at the same time improving our economy, creating jobs, and providing hope to non-violent offenders who have earned a second chance.
For the full legislative text, click here, and for a bill description, click here. The bill is supported by 22 original co-sponsors, as well as the Center for American Progress and FreedomWorks.