PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When PA Rep. Dom Costa of Morningside was Pittsburgh’s police chief, he made lots of drug arrests with long-term consequences.
“When I look back and see all the people I arrested back in the days for marijuana,” Costa told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Monday, “it’s almost like a disservice to them.”
“They have a drug arrest on their record, and so when they go somewhere to get a job, it shows up as a drug arrest.”
Duquesne Law School Prof. Tracey McCants Lewis sees the issue at her Duquesne University law clinic.
“Individuals are not able to support themselves because of a criminal background. They are underemployed or they are not employed,” she says.
Nearly 3 million Pennsylvanians — that’s more than one-third of us of working age — have a criminal record of some sort.
For many, it’s just a misdemeanor.
For others, it’s an arrest without even a conviction.
But no matter what that record is, it could come back to haunt us decades later when we apply for a job.
Now Costa and other lawmakers are pushing the Clean Slate Bill to seal automatically the records of all non-violent misdemeanor convictions and all arrested or charged but never convicted if crime-free for ten years.
“All we’re trying to do is give people a fair chance of employment, especially if they’ve shown for 10 years that they’ve been in no trouble whatsoever,” says Costa.
“It’s the right thing to do.”
This month, Governor Wolf implemented the Fair Chance Hiring Policy for state hires.
“We are removing questions related to a person’s criminal history from the job application in most cases,” explains Dan Egan with the PA Office of Administration.
Background checks will still be conducted — just later in the process.
“I can’t tell you how many individuals who have come to the clinic [say} I just want a job, I want to work, I want to support my family,” says Prof. McCants Lewis.
“We should allow them to be able to do that.”