Harris applauds passage of 'clean slate' bill in state Senate

HARRISBURG, June 28 – State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., applauded the passing of a bill (S.B. 529) in the state Senate that would provide people with low-level, non-violent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

“This legislation is long overdue - for too long we have only been tough on crime. This approach has cost our commonwealth millions of dollars and has taken an unnecessary toll on the lives of countless numbers of our citizens who have paid their legal debt to society but still find themselves locked out of a path to productive citizenry,” Harris said.

“We are taking another necessary step to not just be tough, but to also be smart and most importantly fair in our approach to crime. This approach will unlock a pathway to creating something our commonwealth desperately needs, more productive, taxpaying, citizens. This is a great leap in the direction of helping to reduce overall rates of recidivism in our commonwealth and providing opportunities for our citizens and our communities to grow and thrive, potentially saving the state millions of dollars because we will be increasing our tax base,” Harris said.

Harris was instrumental in passing Act 5 of 2016, which provides a process for sealing low-level, non-violent misdemeanors. He is now advocating for S.B. 529 and House Bill 1419, which would implement automatic sealing of records with no action required by the former offender. Under Act 5, it is required that former offenders each file a sealing petition with a court.

Harris and Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, introduced H.B. 1419.

“More than one in every three of the commonwealth’s working-age citizens, are estimated to have a criminal record. Many of these folks are our friends and neighbors who have only minor offenses, such as misdemeanors, while others simply have arrests without conviction. Unfortunately, having even a minor criminal record carries lifelong barriers that can block successful re-entry and participation in society. This approach to crime has increased an already heavy burden of providing for ones future and family,” Harris said. “At a time when nearly half of all of Pennsylvania’s children have a parent with a record, we have to do all that we can to remove the barriers to stable employment, housing, and anything else that can have a negative impact on family life.”

The legislation proposes the following structure for sealing records:

  • Non-violent Misdemeanor Convictions – Sealing would occur after a person has remained crime-free for 10 years.

  • Non-Conviction Records – Sealing would be done as a matter of course, given that the presumption of innocence is one of the bedrocks of the American criminal justice system.

The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which is also expected to receive the Senate-passed bill.