Photo credit: Michael Coghlan (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Michael Coghlan (CC-By-2.0)

U.S. Representatives Rod Blum (R-IA) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced H.R. 6677, the Clean Slate Act – 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 a life sentence of poverty. By automatically sealing the records of non-violent offenders who have paid their debt to society, this bill will help employers fill the over 6.8 million unfilled jobs in the United States, boost our economy by as much as $87 billion per year, and create opportunities for returning citizens to earn a shot at a happy, healthy, and productive life.

Blum offered the following statement: 

Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Of the 2.3 million estimate of people 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. 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. 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 sealed, upon petition, 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.

Blunt Rochester added:

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have a positive impact on millions of families – building a brighter tomorrow that boosts our economy and reforms our out-of-date criminal justice system.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.

“We thank Reps. Blunt Rochester and Blum for introducing federal ‘clean slate’ legislation. It is no surprise that policies streamlining record sealing have garnered so much attention and support across the country. Congress often lags far behind the states on criminal justice issues. In this case, the introduction of this bill follows Pennsylvania’s enactment of the first state-level clean slate bill. This innovative approach will aid reentry, bolster the workforce, and reduce crime rates, making communities safer and more prosperous,” FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jason Pye said.

Specifically the Clean Slate Act 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. 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 their initial request was denied.

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 boost our economy, create jobs, and provide hope to non-violent offenders who paid their debts to society.

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