Testimony on SB 691: AAC Erasure of Criminal Records

Judiciary Committee

March 29, 2019

Submitted By: Maggie Goodwin, LCSW

The National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing over 2500 members supports SB 691.

Clean Slate Legislation would automatically expunge the criminal records of citizens returning from prison who do not return to crime – 3 years after misdemeanors and 5 years after non-violent felonies. Currently in CT people with criminal record can apply to the board of pardons and paroles to have their record expunged 3 years after completing their sentence for a misdemeanor and 5 years after completing their sentence for a felony. Many social work clients report that the current pardon process is difficult to understand, uneven and lacking in transparency.  People report they cannot successfully complete the application without the help of a lawyer which is not financially realistic. Because of the difficult process and seemingly arbitrary denials, many returning citizens give up on the bureaucratic pardon process and continue to be barred from many job and housing options. The automatic expungement of criminal records provided by SB691 would open new opportunities and allow these citizens to truly rebuild their lives.

Five thousand people leave prison every year in CT. and it is estimated that up to one half of America’s children have one parent who has been incarcerated. Without automatic expungement these people are “stuck” and relegated to second class citizen status. These statistics indicate that passage of SB 691 will affect many CT residents and will give these citizens renewed hope. It will provide a clear path to rebuilding and bettering their lives, their families lives and allow them to fully contribute in society.

The current system has a particularly negative impact on Blacks and Hispanics, who are incarcerated at much higher rates than other racial groups. Systemic racism already makes it more difficult for Blacks and Hispanics to find employment and housing. Add to this a criminal record for a past misdemeanor or non-violent felony, and we are re-sentencing these former inmates to a life of struggle, rather than aiding them to become productive citizens.

SB 691 is a way toward giving individuals a second chance and by doing so, we will reduce the need for social service interventions and increase the opportunities for formerly incarcerated persons to successfully rebuild their lives.

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