PA prepares to implement clean slate
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS), with the leadership of Sharon M. Dietrich, has issued a report on the progress made towards implementing Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Act. (See our post describing this ground-breaking law when it was enacted last June.) Notably, the state is “on target” to start automated sealing of criminal records by the onset date of June 28, 2019. As the report explains, “[a]utomated sealing will permit Pennsylvania to close the large ‘second chance gap’ between those eligible for expungement or sealing and those who actually benefit, by allowing cases to be sealed in a volume not possible in the absence of technology.” The most ambitious aspect of the new law is its retroactive application to millions of people, some of whom were convicted decades ago.
CLS is to be commended for marshaling lawyers and other advocates to make the relief promised by this law a reality. Other jurisdictions across the country will have their eyes on Pennsylvania as it works to harness technology in the service of reintegration.
The report’s overview is reprinted below:
Get Ready, Get Set: Pennsylvania Prepares for Clean Slate Implementation
By: Community Legal Services, Inc., Philadelphia, PA
First Published: March 6, 2019
Last Updated: March 13, 2019
On June 28, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania signed Act 56 of 2018, more commonly known as the Clean Slate Act. With its signing, Pennsylvania became the first state in the nation to enact automated sealing of criminal records by technology.
Instead of expunging or sealing cases one by one with the filing, adjudication, and processing of petitions, millions of cases will be sealed by algorithms. Automated sealing will permit Pennsylvania to close the large “second chance gap” between those eligible for expungement or sealing and those who actually benefit, by allowing cases to be sealed in a volume not possible in the absence of technology.
The Clean Slate Act provides that automated sealing will begin on June 28, 2019. Sealing of the inventory of millions of eligible cases will be completed by June 27, 2020. With fewer than four months until June 28th, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (“the Courts”) and the Pennsylvania State Police (“the State Police”) are on target for successful implementation of automated sealing by the onset date.
Meanwhile, Phase 1 of the Clean Slate Act, which expanded eligibility for sealing in Pennsylvania to most misdemeanor convictions, started on December 26, 2018. Phase 1 implementation marked the kick-off for public awareness of the Clean Slate Act around the state, featuring the following.
- The creation of the Clean Slate Screening Project, through which hundreds of volunteer lawyers are screening records and providing advice to the more than 7,500 Pennsylvanians who have signed up for assistance.
- The establishment of MyCleanSlatePA.com as a statewide resource.
- A press conference by Governor Wolf that generated statewide press about Clean Slate
At present, Community Legal Services (CLS) and its many partners are working to insure the best and fullest possible implementation of the law. The issues that we are working on include the following.
- Insertion of missing data, such as grading information, into the Courts’ database.
- Resolution of court fines and costs that prevent sealing of convictions.
- Extending the implementation of Pennsylvania’s sealed cases to FBI background checks.
Finally, CLS has published numerous resources explaining the Clean Slate Act, leading to better understanding of the law among lawyers, court personnel, policy makers, and the public.
Read the full report here.
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