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Senator Saval Moves to End Housing Discrimination Against Pennsylvanians with Criminal Records

Harrisburg, PA November 3, 2021 − Building from the work of generations of organizers and activists fighting housing discrimination around the country, State Senator Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia) today announced the introduction of his Fair Chance Housing legislation (Senate Bill 912), which adds protective measures to safeguard housing as a human right for the one in three Pennsylvanians impacted by a criminal record.

Formerly incarcerated people experience houselessness at a rate nearly 10 times that of the general population. Fair Chance Housing works to enshrine a person’s right to housing by amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, prohibiting discrimination based on an arrest or conviction record.

“Our criminal legal system has a core narrative that purports to be rooted in transformation, redemption, and second chances. But the reality is that formerly incarcerated people face pervasive, unrelenting discrimination with every step that they take,” said Senator Saval. “Fair Chance Housing is an important tool in reforming our state’s criminal legal system, in pushing back against mass incarceration, and in the broader fight for equity and justice.”

State Representative Donna Bullock (D–Philadelphia), Chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, first introduced Pennsylvania’s Fair Chance Housing legislation in the State House five years ago; Senator Saval’s legislation brings this work to the State Senate.

“Criminal records create barriers to employment, education, and housing,” said Rep. Bullock. “If we truly believe in rehabilitation and second chances, then we must responsibly remove these barriers so that people with criminal histories can secure gainful employment and a safe place to live. This Fair Chance Housing legislation is similar to ‘Ban the Box’ policies that made employment more accessible. It can do the same for housing.”

Every year, some 650,000 Americans complete their sentences and return from prison to begin the impossible process of navigating the nearly 50,000 federal, state, and municipal laws that restrict their access to basic, vital resources.

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