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Advocates: CT Clean-Slate Bill Passage a Start, But More Work is Needed

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021   

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Advocates for criminal-justice reform are optimistic about the passage of a Clean Slate bill, which would clear criminal records of some people convicted of misdemeanors and less serious class D and E felonies.

Senate Bill 1019 also states a person may have their record wiped if they've completed their sentences, and have had no interaction with the criminal-justice system for seven to 10 years.

Gus Marks-Hamilton, Smart Justice interim campaign manager for the ACLU of Connecticut, said people in the state with a criminal record face consequences such as barriers to employment and housing, and should get a chance to start fresh.

"Because people who have done their time, who have earned the right to move on with their lives, earned the opportunity to move on with their lives, deserve a clean slate," Marks-Hamilton asserted.

Counting those with C, D, and E felonies and most misdemeanor convictions would allow about 250,000 people to have their records erased, Marks-Hamilton reported, but with an amendment to exclude people with class C and some D felony convictions, that number would fall.

Marks-Hamilton argued opponents of the bill had misperceptions about felony convictions.

"When we get stuck on felony convictions and what the actual offense was, we're losing track of the humanity of the people who are living with these convictions," Marks-Hamilton contended. "Because at the end of the day, this is really about people."

He noted the amendment especially impacts Black and Latinx people in Connecticut, who represent 25% to 30% of the state population convicted of a felony.

Marks-Hamilton acknowledged the Clean Slate measure would still help many folks, but hopes the General Assembly will make the measure more inclusive in future sessions.

"This bill represents progress, but there's a lot more that can be done in the state to make sure that clean slate is available to every person who needs it," Marks-Hamilton concluded.

The measure passed in the House on Thursday and now awaits Gov. Ned Lamont's signature. If enacted, it would become effective in Jan. 2023.


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