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Why Pa. Clean Slate law could extend to felonies

Pennsylvania could soon give people who served time for non-violent felony crimes a second chance. A new bi-partisan bill would wipe some criminal records clean.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — It's a chance to start again. Lawmakers in Harrisburg say a new bi-partisan bill would empower people with low-level non-violent felony charges on their record, making it easier to reenter society.

"No one should be judged by their worst day," said State Representative Jordan Harris, a Democrat who serves Philadelphia.

Last month, Republican State Representative Sheryl Delozier joined Harris in introducing Pennsylvania State House Bill 689.

"Criminal records have stopped people from getting jobs, it stops them from going to school, it stops them from living in certain places," Harris said.

Lawmakers are dubbing the new bill 'Clean Slate 3.0.' It would automatically expunge the records of reformed felons who have paid off any restitution and remained crime-free for ten years.

"They're not an addict anymore, they've cleaned themselves up, they're most-likely family people, whether they're married, they have children, whatever it is," Delozier said. "They're working in our communities; they're paying taxes in our communities. These are the individuals that we need to give a second chance."

It's an extension of the ground-breaking Clean Slate Law Pennsylvania passed in 2018, the first of its kind in the country. Lawmakers say the Act sealed 43 million misdemeanor records, helping more than 1 million Pennsylvanians move on.

"We know that it incentivizes individuals to turn from their life of crime, to try to do better, to reduce their likelihood of recidivism, which just means better things for themselves and their families and their communities," said Jenna Bottler, executive director of Justice Action Network.

Business experts say extending the automatic forgiveness to reformed felons would be a game-changer for employers who are struggling to fill jobs.

"We are urging lawmakers to focus on workforce, expanding the pool of people we have in Pennsylvania to fill these critical good paying, career-oriented jobs," said Alex Halper from the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

"When a person has shown you that they've changed, when they've done the work, we, the government, should give them a second chance," Harris added.

House lawmakers say the bill will be up for a vote next Wednesday.

A similar bill has also been introduced in the state senate.

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