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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Landlords and prospective employers will no longer be able to see if a potential renter or employee has been convicted of a non-violent crime in Pennsylvania.
“It’s going to make a big difference,” Neighborhood Legal Services attorney Ed Richardson told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday. “A big, major difference.”
Stephenson was referring to the Clean Slate Bill signed into law Thursday afternoon by Gov. Tom Wolf which, he says, will help millions of Pennsylvanians with an old conviction find a job or get the services they need.
“It’s going to help all those who have committed low level offenses who paid their penalty to get back on the path of a blemish-free life,” said Wolf. “And I really want to point out that Pennsylvania is the very first state in the union to do this.”
This new law automatically seals from public view arrest records when charges are dropped as well as non-violent misdemeanor and summary offense convictions if the individual has been crime-free for at least 10 years.
One out of three working-age Pennsylvanians has a criminal history or arrest record, and most employers, landlords, and colleges do criminal background checks.
The Clean Slate Bill is not quite the same thing as the Ban the Box Movement.
That’s the box that’s on a job application form where your employer wants to know whether you have ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.
Under Pennsylvania law, employers can continue to ask that question, but you can answer no if your slate has been wiped clean.
“You’re not required to answer that question. You are not required to reveal that conviction at all,” says Stephenson.
The bill passed almost unanimously with support from Wolf’s opponent, former Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Wagner.
It also had backing from some conservative groups like the Commonwealth Foundation.
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” noted Bob Dick, senior policy analyst at the Foundation.
And it could make it easier for some to get off welfare and back to work.
Delano: “Do you see this as an employment bill?”
Dick: “Absolutely. It will definitely reduce the barriers for people to work so they don’t have that stigma that’s associated with a criminal record.”