Media 3.3.21

New Legislation Clears the Way for Second Chances in Virginia

Contact: Press@CleanSlateInitiative.org

Clean Slate Initiative Celebrates Virginia for Automatic Record Clearance Win

Virginia latest state to adopt legislation that brings real second chances to millions of Americans

The Clean Slate Initiative celebrates the work of the Legal Aid Justice Center, Nolef Turns and the Virginia Expungement Council for their leadership in driving the passage of legislation that will greatly expand and improve the record clearing process – a critical step towards ensuring that criminal records are not a life sentence to poverty for people and their families. Upon Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature, many more Virginians will be able to benefit from a second chance, free from the collateral consequences that can affect every aspect of a person’s life, from getting a job to accessing an education.

“Everyone in America should have a fair opportunity to make a living, take care of their families and participate in their communities. Even when people make mistakes, they should have a second chance to care for their families and access opportunity,” said Sheena Meade, managing director of the Clean Slate Initiative. “We applaud the work of advocates, directly impacted people and elected allies who have worked tirelessly to advance free, expanded and automatic record relief for Virginians, making these concrete advances possible.”

The Virginia legislation creates an automatic clearance process for dismissed cases and some misdemeanors, allows petition-based sealing for a number of misdemeanor and felony convictions, and ensures that third-party background check companies delete records once they’ve been sealed by government agencies.

The Clean Slate Initiative is working with advocates and partners on the ground from coast-to-coast to expand policies that automatically clear criminal records. Since the campaign’s beginning, Clean Slate laws are on the books in Pennsylvania, Utah and Michigan. Seven states including Texas, New York, Oregon, Delaware, Louisiana, Connecticut and North Carolina are now leading active Clean Slate campaigns across the country, and many other states are exploring ways to improve record clearing provisions for justice-involved individuals.

When one in three Americans has some kind of criminal history, Clean Slate policies can make second chances a reality for millions of Americans saddled with arrest or conviction records that block their access to the basics of life —  jobs, housing, education, starting a business or just participating fully in community life, injustices that are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Clean Slate Initiative’s nationwide policy model empowers states to automatically seal or expunge qualifying criminal records. In the vast majority of states, record clearance is only possible through a time intensive and costly petition-based process, which is inaccessible for the vast majority of eligible people. The automatic “Clean Slate” process creates greater equity, consistency and cost-effectiveness through a streamlined clearance process that applies to all eligible records – regardless of a person’s race or wealth.

Automatic expungement will allow millions of people condemned to unjust sentences of unemployment, lack of housing and inability to get an education to access a real second chance, and it will release their families from serving their own unjust sentences. Nearly half of all U.S. children now have at least one parent with a criminal record. Any record — even a decades-old misdemeanor or an arrest that never led to conviction — can make it nearly impossible to get into college, find a job, secure a place to live or access a bank account. Nearly 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges use background checks to screen applicants. People with criminal records are half as likely as other jobseekers to get a callback from an employer. And on average, the wages of people who receive expungements increase by more than 20 percent just one year after a record has been cleared.

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About Clean Slate Initiative

The Clean Slate Initiative is a bipartisan national movement to automate the clearing of criminal records that block second chances for tens of millions of Americans. Following decades of overcriminalization, between 70 million and 100 million Americans have some type of criminal record—nearly half of all children in America have a parent with a record. In the digital era, with nearly 9 in 10 employers now using criminal background checks, any criminal record—no matter how old or minor—can be a life sentence to poverty.