When a person serves their time in jail or pays a fine to the courts, it is believed they have served their debt to society. However, this often is not true. When a person has a criminal record, it prevents them from employment and housing opportunities. This often leads to poverty. Pennsylvania has come up with a solution to the problem that will help everyone throughout the state.
Researchers at the University of Michigan showed people that cleared their records saw an increase of more than 20 percent in their wages. Despite this, only 6.5 percent of people eligible to have their records sealed actually go through the process. This is because in Michigan, like in Pennsylvania, the process is simply too arduous. For those in Pennsylvania though, it is about to become much easier.
In late June, Pennsylvania started automatically sealing criminal records of those accused of minor crimes. Those eligible to have their record sealed are those that have been accused but not convicted of crimes, and those convicted of minor crimes, such as minor drug possession charges. These records can be sealed ten years after the conviction, as long as there are no other offenses within that time.
“Pennsylvanians should feel proud to live in a state that is the first to take such positive steps,” says David Clark of Price Benowitz. “This will drastically change the lives of people that deserve a second chance. Now, they will finally get it.”
Although Pennsylvania is the first state to automatically seal criminal records, other states are already starting to follow. Utah became the second state to pass “clean slate” legislation similar to that of Pennsylvania’s. Now, Arkansas and California are also considering it.
Not only will the new law help change the lives of thousands of people in the state, but it’s also going to save the state money. In systems that require individuals to petition to have their record sealed, the process costs thousands of dollars for each case. The automatic system costs just five cents per case. That equals millions saved every year, which is something all Pennsylvanians will benefit from.