Media Contact

Ashlee Niedospial, CONECT,
Meghan Holden, ACLU of Connecticut,

May 13, 2021

Hartford, CT (May 13, 2021) –  State leaders Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, House Speaker Matt Ritter, and Judiciary Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Gary Winfield, and Rep. Steve Stafstrom, earlier today joined leaders from Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT), the ACLU of Connecticut (ACLU-CT), the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA) and other allies to call for the passage of a strong and inclusive Clean Slate Bill (SB 1019) this legislative session.

During today’s event, leaders from CONECT, ACLU-CT and GHIAA called on legislators to prioritize and pass a Clean Slate bill that includes felony protections, automatic record erasure, and strong anti-discrimination protections for those with erased records. Clean Slate has passed through both the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees and now awaits action on the Senate and House floor. 

“A criminal record should not be a lifetime sentence,” said Rev. Anthony L. Bennett, Co-chair of CONECT. “[We’re] pushing for the broadest and the most inclusive clean slate bill possible to be passed this session, which means folks with felony records must be included.”

“We know that so many people’s lives have been permanently blighted by a relatively minor conviction that happened to them early in their lives, out of immaturity, a lack of knowledge of how the system works, and I’ve seen it as a criminal defense attorney over the years as so many people have gone through their lives under a cloud,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney. “We have to have a system that works better than our current system of seeking pardons.”

“For some folks who made a mistake at 18 or 19 years old, we cannot punish them forever, it's not an American way,” said House Speaker Matt Ritter. “Some people think this only affects cities -- far from it. It’s not just an urban issue. It is a statewide Connecticut issue.”

"Clean Slate reflects a promise that if someone has paid their debt to society and goes without a new conviction, they will have a light at the end of the tunnel. If our society is going to move forward, we have to build a world where redemption is possible for everyone, and where people are able to support themselves and their families after an arrest or conviction,” said Anderson Curtis, ACLU of Connecticut interim senior field organizer and policy advocate. “For Clean Slate to be more than an empty promise, it must include of as many people as possible and include a way to prevent discrimination on the basis of an erased record. People who have been convicted of a crime, including a felony, can turn their lives around with the right kind of help, and racial disparities in felony convictions should make anyone think twice before trying to limit Clean Slate to only people living with certain misdemeanor records. Without anti-discrimination protections, word of mouth or a Google search of old news stories could put someone in just as precarious a position as if their record had never been erased. We urge the Senate and House to act on this bill now.”

“We believe that mercy is a virtue, that our relationships require it. We believe that agreements are sacred and when the government says that your sentence should only be so many years, it must not continue to punish you for the rest of your life,” said Dwayne David Paul, a leader with GHIAA. “277,000 formerly incarcerated people, their families, and their communities will benefit from this bill.”

“I want to know who those people are that don’t want to do this bill. I want to ask them a question -- what is it that you don't want to do? Do you not want people to have housing? Do you not want people to have employment? Do you not want people to have the second chance that we say we should get when we get out of prison?” said Senator Gary Winfield, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee. “What the data tells us is that after a certain period of time you’re no more likely to commit a crime than me who hasn't committed a crime, so if we know that then why aren't we operating that way?”

"Now is the time to pass a strong Clean Slate bill, which is more than just a criminal justice bill- it's an economic recovery bill that will help tens of thousands of people obtain jobs and housing.  In Connecticut, we believe in second chances.” said State Representative Steve Stafstrom, House Chair of the legislature's Judiciary Committee. “This bill makes it possible for folks to get back on their feet after they have paid their debt to society and have shown they are not likely to recidivate."

An estimated 277,000 Connecticut residents could benefit from the passage of Clean Slate, which would allow for the automatic erasure of criminal records for certain convictions after a set period of time, for individuals who remain free of the criminal justice system upon release from custody. Living with a criminal record impacts a person’s ability to access jobs, safe, stable housing, and higher education and Connecticut's current process to apply for erasure is burdensome, costly, bureaucratic, and subjective. The bill pending in the legislature includes protections to prevent discrimination on the basis of a person’s erased record and includes some people convicted of a felony.

Sen. Will Haskel, Sen. Jorge Cabrera, Rep. Jennifer Leeper, Rep. Cristin McCarthy-Vahey, and Rep. Anne Hughes also attended the press conference to show their support for SB 1019.

A stream of the full event can be viewed here. It will also be available on CT-N.