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Clergy, legislators to campaign for ‘Clean Slate’ legislation

January 5, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — Although no formal legislation has been drafted, a group of community members and legislators will gather Sunday to campaign for changes to state law to expunge criminal records of certain crimes.

The legislators, religious leaders and community members plan to gather at Mt. Aery Baptist Church, 73 Frank St. in Bridgeport, at 3 p.m. Sunday to campaign for “Clean Slate” criminal justice reform statewide.

The proposed legislation aims to create a way to automatically expunge criminal records for those who served their time and stayed crime-free — after three years for misdemeanor charges and after five years for nonviolent felonies.

Sunday’s gathering is organization by Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, a community organization made up of more than 27 religious congregations across Fairfield and New Haven counties.

“Returning citizens with expunged records (to the work force) would play a critical role in filling some of the ... jobs currently vacant in Connecticut,” a press release from CONECT about Sunday’s event said.

Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, said she’s giving the introduction at Sunday’s event and plans to bring colleagues involved in labor and judicial efforts in the state to explain the impact such laws would have statewide.

“Bridgeport and urban centers, we seem to have the highest number of people incarcerated” in the state, Moore said during a phone interview Friday. “When they’re incarcerated and they come out, they’re often held back because of minor crimes.”

Moore said this kind of legislation falls in line with the legalization of marijuana. She said the state will have to look at people already in jail on marijuana-related charges for minor possession.

“I’m not talking about dealers or hard drugs,” Moore said.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said a meeting with clergy in Norwalk roughly a month ago is what alerted him to Sunday’s campaign.

The legislation, Duff said Friday, would help people break out of stereotypes based on what they were charged with in their past.

“People never get out from under that shadow,” Duff said. “Opportunities for them are limited. ...It would help provide pathways so that people who have been convicted in the past can now, after a certain amount of time when they have not recitivated on their crime or any crime, be allowed to have their record expunged.”

He said such legislation in Connecticut is just a concept at the moment and that it would require a lot of details to be worked out.

Incoming chair of the Judiciary Committee Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven; Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven; and Rep. Andre Baker, D-Bridgeport, were also expected to attend Sunday’s gathering.

A Clean Slate law went into effect in Pennsylvania in late December. It allows residents with nonviolent misdemeanor records to have the records sealed if they stay out of trouble with the law for 10 years.

The expunged record can only be viewed by law enforcement, employers required to consider records under federal law and employers who use FBI background checks.

“Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law permits many criminal cases in Pennsylvania to be sealed — taken out of public view, so they cannot be used by employers, landlords and others,” the website for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia says.

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