Ninety-five percent of people who are incarcerated will return home to society. For too many, there are simply no options for life’s necessities, such as housing and employment, if they have a criminal record.
A new poll released by Smart Justice shows that the majority of Connecticut voters want this to change: 64 percent of Connecticut voters would support a Clean Slate law that automatically erases criminal records and prevents discrimination against people with a criminal history.
More than eight in ten Connecticut voters agree, and it is 100 percent true, that a person’s record of arrest or conviction alone does not tell you whether they will be good employees or tenants. People who are reentering society have skills, talents, and expertise to lend and families to support, just like everyone else. Everyone living with a criminal record should have the chance to succeed and support themselves and their families, no matter what crime they were convicted of or arrested for. When people reentering society have a full, complete chance at a fresh start, it makes everyone stronger and safer. It is time for our state’s policies to catch up to these truths.
This year, the legislature will consider Clean Slate proposals – bills that automatically erase people’s criminal records after they have completed their sentence. Some of these bills would require a person to go a certain amount of time without a new offense.
Smart Justice will be at the legislature daily to advocate for policies to give people real, complete fresh chances. We believe that for Clean Slate to fully realize its promise, it must do two things: it must include options for automatic record erasure for every person who has been convicted of a crime, and it must prevent people from being discriminated against based on their criminal history.
First, Clean Slate should include everyone. 85 percent of Connecticut voters, including 91 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Independents, and 72 percent of Republicans, say that people who have been convicted of a crime should have a fair shot at getting their lives on track without having their prison sentence held against them. Nearly two in three Connecticut voters (65 percent) believe that people who have been convicted of a violent crime can turn their lives around and become productive members of society if they can get the right kind of help.
For many people, “the right kind of help” means being able to find housing and support themselves and their families, so they can get their lives on track and stay on the right path. The evidence bears this out: the country’s largest employer, the U.S. military, has found that enlistees with felony convictions are more likely to be promoted than their peers, regardless of other factors like educational attainment level.
Second, Clean Slate must include a way to hold people accountable if they discriminate against someone based on their criminal history. We live in a digital age. Even if someone’s record is erased, there is a chance that a potential landlord or employer could learn about someone’s criminal history outside of a background check. A fully realized Clean Slate would close this potential loophole by prohibiting discrimination against people based on their record and holding people accountable if they do discriminate.
Our society needs to give people with a criminal record a fair chance to support themselves and their families by providing them with a way to automatically erase their records and protecting them against discrimination because of their past.
Connecticut voters have spoken, and they support policies to help people who are reentering society to get back on their feet, including strong Clean Slate proposals that automatically erase criminal records and prevent discrimination based on someone’s criminal history.
When Smart Justice calls for strong Clean Slate proposals that include everyone and prevent discrimination, we are not alone. This poll shows that the majority of Connecticut voters stand with us.