CLEAN SLATE HIRING: 5 Facts You Need to Know Now
Let’s talk about “Clean Slate” laws. If you haven’t heard much about them being enacted where you live, that may soon change as more and more states are taking up the initiative. And if you’re in a state that has enacted a form of this trending legislation, you likely have questions about how the laws work and its effect on your organization’s screening process.
As a leading, nationally accredited consumer reporting agency with close to 20 years of screening experience, AmericanChecked has closely followed debates over Clean Slate hiring. We are equally committed to fair, equitable hiring processes and safe, secure workplaces. In this article, we have compiled the most relevant information on Clean Slate hiring, what it is and how it is being implemented.
We’ll take a look at facts you need to consider as you navigate the hiring and screening process with Clean Slate laws taking effect. Importantly, we’ll share one key update you can add to your screening process to keep your organization, employees, and volunteers safe as new screening laws are implemented.
Clean Slate Laws – A Brief History
Sealing and expunging of criminal records have long been an option for those who are convicted of crimes and serve their sentences. However, it can be a complex and costly process. The legal channels involved in sealing or expunging records can be a major obstacle for those who seek to have their records addressed. Many offenders are not even aware that such options exist.
The idea of Clean Slate legislation began to take shape in 2014, when a local advocacy group in Philadelphia developed software to speed the expungement process by automatically generating expungement petitions. Building on this, the group partnered with a public policy organization is known as the Center for American Progress (CAP) to work towards automating the entire record-clearing process.
In 2018, Pennsylvania became the first state to pass a Clean Slate law. The law holds that after 10 years with no convictions, records of those with eligible offenses are automatically searched by computer. Qualifying records are automatically sealed, with no need to petition the court. This law set the stage for advocacy in other states for similar Clean Slate legislation.
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Five Facts You Need to Know about Clean Slate Laws
You likely have questions about what’s happening with Clean Slate laws and what the impact has been so far. Here are five key facts compiled by AmericanChecked that will hopefully give you a better understanding of the Clean Slate debate:
- So Far Eight States Have Enacted Clean Slate Laws
As of October 2022, clean slate laws have been passed in eight states. These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
At the same time, almost two dozen states have implemented some type of automatic record clearing. Many of these measures focus on expunging dismissed cases, non-convictions, or marijuana-related offenses. Clean Slate advocates are likely to focus their energies in 2023 on states that have enacted these more limited provisions.
- It’s a Bipartisan Effort that Crosses Political Lines
In a time of rigid political divisions, Clean Slate laws have managed to unite many activists and officials from across the political spectrum.
The concept began with input from a staunchly progressive public policy group. It has been embraced by groups who worry about the unfair impact of arrests and incarcerations on minority communities. And conservatives are also on board. They believe it is a fair policy for those who have served time, paid their debt, and turned their lives around.
Many Democrats and Republicans also see Clean Slate laws as a business-friendly, economically-sound policy. They believe this approach can create a larger labor force and help businesses big and small grow locally and nationally.
- Clean Slate Laws Vary Significantly from State to State
Each state’s Clean Slate law has distinct terms and requirements. State-by-state, different types of records are eligible for automatic record clearance. Some states clear felony records; others only clear misdemeanors. Individual state laws may also impose different waiting periods. There are also unique requirements about whether restitution must be paid before records are cleared.
There’s one more significant difference: Records are expunged in some states, meaning the record is permanently destroyed so that it’s no longer accessible to anyone. In other states, the record is sealed. It still exists for legal purposes but can’t be accessed by the public.
- The Results Are Promising – But Far from Perfect
Clean Slate advocates point to data that they say shows the potential effectiveness of these laws. According to one study, expunging criminal records can lead to 22% higher earnings than those with existing records. The same study found “extremely low” rates of recidivism for those whose records are expunged. Another report found that some two-thirds of people with records have not had a new conviction in ten years.
But many businesses and organizations that screen for sensitive positions have legitimate concerns about those who do re-offend, and how those subsequent offenses will be reported.
There are also broader public safety concerns. A New York Clean Slate law under consideration has stirred controversy by making even violent crimes eligible for automatic sealing and expungement after waiting periods. “The fact that this bill does not exclude violent felony offenses or allow some level of discretion to a court is a big problem,” said one New York lawmaker. “There should always be a second chance in life, but not everyone’s entitled to that in such… an immediate fashion.”
- Overall, It Is Too Early to Predict the Impact of Clean Slate Hiring
Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law was passed in 2018, and Utah’s went into effect this year. Beyond these two states, such laws are still waiting for full implementation.
Clean Slate laws in Connecticut and Michigan take effect next year. Delaware’s law starts in 2024. Colorado’s and Oklahoma’s Clean Slate will not be implemented until 2025. It will take years after the implementation of these laws (and new ones that will be passed in states next year and beyond) to fully determine how these laws affect hiring, screening, and recidivism.
This post is for information only and should not be construed as legal advice. For specific guidance, please contact your legal counsel. For more information about AmericanChecked and our background screening services, contact us.