Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, heralds the Clean Slate Law on the day it took effect (Capital-Star file photo).
The latest expansion to Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law was signed by Gov. Josh Shapiro on Thursday after passing both chambers of the legislature on a bipartisan basis.
Supporters say the updated legislation reflects a commitment by the commonwealth to criminal justice reform.
State Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), the prime sponsor of House Bill 689, called the passage of the legislation “a testament to Pennsylvania’s belief in second chances and the continuous expansion of opportunities for its residents.”
In 2018, Pennsylvania became the first state in the nation to pass a Clean Slate bill, which automatically sealed the records of lower-level non-violent offenses from public disclosure for those who had not been convicted of a crime for 10 years. In 2020, Pennsylvania passed an expansion of this legislation.
The latest expansion includes the sealing of details in certain low-level, nonviolent felony drug crimes after 10 years without another misdemeanor or felony conviction. The new bill reduces the waiting period for sealing misdemeanor convictions to seven years, and to five years for summary convictions.
“Collaborating with Representative Delozier on this initiative, and witnessing the bipartisan endorsement, reaffirms our commitment to justice reform,” Harris said. “Clean Slate expansion is about providing opportunities to those who’ve earned second chances and fostering fairness within the system.”
Nine other states have since adopted similar legislation, and 1.2 million Pennsylvanians have received a second chance under the Clean Slate law, said co-sponsor Rep. Sheryl M. Delozier (R-Cumberland).
The state legislature also approved Senate Bill 838 on a bipartisan basis, aimed at reforming the state’s probation system.
“I am encouraged to see both our House Bill 689 and Senate Bill 838, which contains an amendment I offered, advance to the governor’s desk,” Delozier said. “These are prime examples of strong criminal justice reform bills, which would build upon and improve smart public policy. If signed into law, these bills will be meaningful victories for criminal justice reform, an issue I have been passionate about for decades.”
During public remarks on Wednesday evening, Shapiro said the bills are making the criminal justice system “more fair for all,” and specifically lauded Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, who has been an influential voice on Clean Slate for the past few years, dating back to his time as a member of the state House.
“Most Pennsylvanians believe in the power of second chances for people who have worked hard to turn their lives around, make amends and now contribute positively to their communities,” said Davis, who also chairs the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, in a press release. “A pardon demonstrates that someone has done the work and earned that second chance.”
He said current state law requires someone who has received a pardon to take further steps to have their record expunged.
“With [the] passage of ‘Clean Slate’ legislation, we can now rectify this situation,” Davis said.
The legislation received support across the political spectrum. On Thursday, Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, a criminal justice reform advocate, celebrated Clean Slate’s passage on social media, and Emily Greene, Deputy State Director for the conservative Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania hailed it as well.
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, another vocal ally of Clean Slate 3.0, described it as “life-changing legislation.”
“Clean Slate expansion will allow hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to move past their old mistakes,” said Sharon M. Dietrich, Litigation Director at Community Legal Services.
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