During a packed public hearing, Smart Justice leader Ciara Rosati testified in support of S.B. 403, a bill introduced by the Judiciary Committee that would create a strong Clean Slate law in Connecticut.
Here is what Ciara told the committe:
Good morning Senator Winfield and Representative Stafstrom, and all members of the committee. My name is Ciara Rosati, and I am an ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice leader. I first of all want to humbly thank you for listening to my words today. I am here to testify in support of Senate Bill 403.
I will start by saying I have been offered many second chances in life – the first when I was just born. my biological mother had a tough life and chose to give me up for adoption at the age of 16. I was adopted by 2 people that spent many years trying to conceive a child, only for it to fail every time. When they got the call that they were chosen to adopt me, they made it their life’s plan to give me the best life that they could.
And I am trying to do the same thing for my son. I am a 28 year old woman with a felony conviction and also a single mother to an 18-month old son. Ever since my release from prison in 2017, I have faced many obstacles.
I have been fired from jobs after I started working because they discovered my record. I work in the restaurant industry because that is the one of the few types of jobs that would hire me where I can make a decent income.
Since my son was born in 2018 and I began raising him alone, I have been taking all the steps I can to give him a healthy life as my family tried so hard to give me. I work a full time job. I am in college and am graduating this semester with a degree.
The next important thing to me is a place to call my own where I can raise my son. I am afraid of applying for my own apartment and being turned down. I am afraid, that despite making the right choices, I am still going to be told that I am not “good enough.”
Not only will that be saying no to me, but that will be saying no to my son. What has my son done to deserve that? My son already faces adversities, having a parent who has been incarcerated and living in a single parent household. But to know there is a chance that I will be told that I cannot choose to raise my son in a place that is healthy and safe because of a crime that happened 7 years ago? Isn’t right.
This is why the Clean Slate bill is so important. All convicted individuals, including parents who have served their time, deserve a fair chance at being able to support their families and create a better life for themselves.
Even if someone’s record is erased, there is a chance that a potential landlord, employer, or other gatekeeper can learn about their criminal history outside of a background check.
Clean Slate needs to prohibit discrimination against people based on their record and hold people accountable if they do discriminate. Clean Slate needs to be an automatic, inclusive system, INCLUDING misdemeanor and felony convictions.
ALL people with a conviction deserve a second chance. Like I’ve said in the beginning, I've been given many second chances. I was given a second chance at life when being adopted. I was given a second chance when I was released from prison. I was given a second chance at having a father still, once we heard the word “cancer”. I was given a second chance when I overcame addiction and was resuscitated from an overdose. I was given a second chance to have a life of meaning when God made me a parent.
But I have NOT been given a second chance if I continue to be discriminated against daily for a criminal record.
ALL people depend on getting a second chance at some point in their life. There should not be limits on a person’s “second chance.” A real clean slate needs to be just that – a real, full, Clean Slate. Thank you.