July 2, 2019, Bobbi Booker - Generocity
Individuals with criminal records often encounter barriers to work, decent housing and have a higher recidivism rate — and approximately 77 million Americans have a criminal record.
On Friday, June 28, Pennsylvania became the first state in the nation to automatically clear old and minor criminal records through the new Clean Slate law.
According to Katie Svoboda-Kindle, 33, staff attorney at Community Legal Services (CLS), about 30 million cases — half of the court’s total database — will be eligible for auto-sealing of criminal records. That represents one in three Pennsylvanians with a criminal record. CLS believes that in the first month alone of Clean Slate, more charges will be cleared in Pennsylvania than have ever been cleared before nationwide.
“We don’t have the numbers of how many individuals are going to have their records sealed, the numbers we have is that it is as many as 30 million cases and 40 million charges, because there can be multiple charges per case,” Svoboda-Kindle said. “Basically, we’re imagining it could be millions of people in Pennsylvania, or it could be around a million people in Pennsylvania, based on that.”
West Philadelphia-based community leader and organizer Khalia A. Robinsonis a Clean Slate candidate who vividly recalls the moments that led to her 2006 arrest. The former radio promoter and part-time musician said she was six-months pregnant when her extended belly knocked over a vendor’s illegal CDs, which drew the attention of passing police. She was charged — but not convicted — with trademark counterfeiting, resulting in the immediate creation of a criminal record that has shadowed her for a dozen years.
“Yeah, that’s been haunting me,” said Robinson, now 40. “My case was dismissed without prejudice, but, you know, I can say it definitely probably kept me out of some of those corporate offices I was trying to get into.”