Harris lauds National Clean Slate legislation introduced in Congress

Pennsylvania is the nation’s first state to enact a Clean Slate law

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 3 – State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., today lauded H.R. 6677, legislation that 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 and any federal nonviolent offense, including marijuana.

The legislation, introduced by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, would allow individuals to petition the United States Courts to seal records for nonviolent offenses that are not automatically sealed, and to appeal within two years if the initial request was denied.

Harris co-authored the Pennsylvania Clean Slate law. The first of its kind in the nation, this law will automatic seal records with second or third-degree misdemeanor offenses and charges that resulted in non-convictions.

“This federal legislation is long overdue - for too long we have only been tough on crime. This approach has cost Pennsylvania and the U.S. billions 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.

“This bill supports the constitutional premise that our nation’s punitive actions are not cruel and unusual. I believe that a lifetime consequence for a youthful indiscretion is just that, both cruel and unusual. I commend Representative Rochester Blunt for asking our nation to rethink the way it punishes citizens who have found themselves on the wrong side of the justice system,” he added.

Blunt Rochester said: “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. 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 6.8 million unfilled jobs in our country – a win for our economy and society.

“I am honored to introduce this bipartisan legislation 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 kick start conversations about Clean Slate and galvanize citizens to press for change in all 50 states,” added Blunt Rochester.

Harris said Clean Slate would help to reverse both the immediate and long-term consequences that records impose on future education, employment and housing created by decades of one-sided policy all across the country. At the same time, it would improve the economy, create jobs, and provide hope to those who had a criminal conviction from decades past and have turned their lives around.