On behalf of our activist community in Pennsylvania, I urge you to contact your state senator urge him or her to vote YES on SB 529, introduced by state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York). The bill would enable Pennsylvanians to reintegrate into society without the life-long barriers associated with a criminal record.
Nearly 100 million Americans, including 3 million in Pennsylvania, have a criminal record. The unfortunate and unanticipated consequences related to a criminal record number in the hundreds, such as obstacles in obtaining employment, living arrangements, and college entry. While poor decisions generate a number of expected burdens, a person striving to rectify his or her actions and lead a responsible life should have the ability to pursue this option.
SB 529 would authorize the automatic sealing of records related to nonviolent misdemeanors and charges that did not result in a conviction.
Not only does this offer a solution to individuals with criminal records, but it also assists in lessening the court system’s workload by reducing the amount of petitions ordinarily filed to seal records. Records would still be accessible to law enforcement officials for public safety purposes, and an individual must have attained a 10-year period free from arrest or prosecution following conviction or final release from confinement before qualifying for the sealing of records.
An overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians support the effort to seal criminal records belonging to nonviolent offenders who have not committed a crime after a certain number of years. In fact, 81 percent of all voters support this policy proposal. Additionally, 87 percent of voters agree with the notion that offenders are more likely to return to crime after serving time in prison if they are unable to find employment once out.
Studies indicate that the rise in incarceration rates have also increased poverty rates by as much as 20 percent. The unintended consequence of reduced earnings based on a criminal history negatively affects families struggling to survive. SB 529 would help decrease Pennsylvania’s poverty rates and assist heads of households with criminal records to provide for their families without current employment barriers.
Pennsylvania is the first state in the nation to present legislation of this kind. FreedomWorks supports the passage of SB 529 because it presents smart policy that benefits communities and truly reformed individuals hoping to contribute to society.
Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks