HARTFORD – Civil rights advocates, including people directly affected by the criminal legal system, gathered in front of the State Capitol Building today to call on the legislature to pass Clean Slate legislation currently pending before the Senate.
S.B. 1019, a Clean Slate bill, passed out of the Judiciary Committee and awaits action from the Senate. During today’s event, leaders from the ACLU of Connecticut’s Smart Justice campaign, CONECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut), SEIU 1199 New England, and GHIAA (Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance) called for the Connecticut General Assembly to pass the current version of the bill, which automatically erases a person’s record if they go for a defined period of time without a new conviction and includes a provision to prevent discrimination on the basis of someone’s erased record.
“I’m not just here fighting for a Clean Slate for myself. I’m here fighting for my daughter and all the people – the family members and loved ones and communities – that have been held down, held back, and denied opportunity because of an oppressive system that is all about endless punishment and turning people into second class citizens,” said Donald Rivers, an ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice leader. “We believe that a person’s ability to move beyond their past, stay on the right track and be able to support themselves and their family should not depend on what type of conviction is on their record. We are fighting for the strongest Clean Slate bill possible so that more people and their families are able to have a fair chance at thriving.”
“Someone who has completed their sentence has already paid their debt to society and should not be forced to keep repaying it. Clean Slate is about providing a light at the end of the tunnel for people who are dealing with the collateral consequences of a record – an inability to find housing, employment, education, and access to financial and credit services – based solely on a scarlet letter from their past. I’ve faced and still face all of those consequences, even though I’ve actually received a pardon from the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole. I’m here because I believe everyone who has completed their sentence has earned the right to move on with their life without the shadow of a criminal record hanging over them for the rest of their life,” said Shelby Henderson, an ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice leader. “Senate Bill 1019 will begin the long overdue process of dismantling the systemic racism that exists in our criminal legal system.”
"I am doing my part to become a productive member of society; however, no matter how much I rise in education, I still encounter barriers to moving forward with my career. When a person is sentenced to prison, society expects them to become this productive member when they come home. How can they do that when they can’t even get a minimum wage job at Starbucks or Town Fair Tire?" said Carrie Perez, leader of the Criminal Justice Reform team with CONECT. "We need to pass SB 1019 so that people can finally come home and be rehabilitated just like society thinks their tax dollars are paying for. What this bill would mean to me: I would be free."
"Black people are still 9.4 times more likely than white people to be incarcerated and Latinx people are still 3.9 times more likely than white people to be incarcerated. And it’s not because Black and Latinx people are doing more crimes, but it’s because of the racist, immoral, and downright evil legacies of the war on drugs and mass incarceration, which disproportionately target and disenfranchise Black and Brown people," said Reverend Philippe Andal, CONECT Treasurer and Senior Pastor of the Community Baptist Church of New Haven. "Without Clean Slate Legislation we cannot even begin to move forward."
People with a criminal record in Connecticut face more than 550 legal and policy barriers in areas such as housing, jobs, education, insurance and credit, and participating in public programs and services. In a 2020 poll conducted by Benenson Strategy Group on behalf of the ACLU of Connecticut, 85% of Connecticut voters, including 91% of Democrats, 88% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans, agreed 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. When informed that Connecticut does not have a Clean Slate law, 64% of Connecticut voters, including 78% of Democrats, 60% of Independents, and 50% of Republicans, said it was important for the legislature to pass a Clean Slate law that is backed by anti-discrimination protections for people with a criminal history.
For bill history regarding S.B. 1019: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2021&bill_num=1019