In 2021, Connecticut's legislature passed, and Governor Lamont signed into law, the strongest Clean Slate bill in the country. Under Clean Slate, if a person goes for a specific number of years without a new conviction, they earn the right to have their record erased -- and critically, if a landlord or employer discriminates against them because of that record that no longer exists, that person has the right to seek redress through Connecticut's human rights agency. Unfortunately, in 2022, some politicians are trying to repeal Clean Slate's promise when it comes to ending housing discrimination against people whose records have been erased. A bill pending in the legislature would allow landlords to discriminate against people who have gone for years without a new conviction, earned a Clean Slate, and had their records erased as a result. On March 10, 2022, Smart Justice leader Terri Ricks testified against this bill, to fight back against this attempt to legalize discrimination. Here is her testimony:
Hello Representative Williams, Senator Lopes, and ranking members Representative Polletta, Senator Ciccarella, and distinguished members of the Housing Committee.
My name is Teri Ricks and I am a leader with the Smart Justice campaign of the ACLU of Connecticut. I am a person who has been directly impacted by housing challenges, by homelessness, by violence, by discrimination, by racism, and by the criminal legal system and almost every kind of oppression you can imagine. I’ve had to fight nearly every day of my life for a life. And I’m doing it again today in opposition to “House Bill 5347, An Act Concerning the Review of Criminal Histories for Prospective Tenants.”
People, all people, including people who have been through the criminal legal system, should have the right to safe and stable housing. One of the most challenging and hurtful obstacles that people who are living with a criminal record face is housing discrimination. No matter how many years have gone by, no matter how qualified a person may be, no matter what their credit score, no matter that they’ve always paid their bills on time – and sometimes a little late, but still being paid – no matter how hard they have worked to rebuild their lives, people are continuing to have the door slammed in their face when they are searching for a place to live. We need to be giving people hope and opportunity, especially when they’ve earned it, but this bill is about denying people a basic right. It is the opposite of what we should be doing in the state of Connecticut.
Giving an opportunity to people who have done their time, who have paid their debt to society and are simply looking for a place to live, is not the risky proposition that some would have you believe. A conviction does not mean a person can or cannot pay their rent or be a good tenant. In fact, prohibiting housing discrimination would go a long way towards helping people find safe and secure housing.
I said earlier that I’ve been fighting every day for my entire life. I’ve been in a fight for survival. And it’s not about me. I’m in this fight to save lives because I believe that every person deserves an opportunity to have a healthy, successful, and fulfilling life. I believe we’re making progress in Connecticut, but it’s a very slow process. For every two steps forward we take one step back, but we’re inching in the right direction. This bill is going in the wrong direction. To tell a person who has had their record erased, who has done their time, who has gone years and years without any involvement in the criminal legal system and done everything that society asks them to do, that that person could still be denied housing due to a record that NO LONGER EXISTS is almost beyond belief. Except that we’re here, holding a public hearing on it.
So I strongly encourage the members of this committee to not pass this bill so that all people can have the right to find a safe and stable place to live.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my testimony today.