The Clean Slate Act isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s smart policy

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun5,2024

One of the most obvious truths of modern government is that it tends to grow exponentially. The number of bureaucrats it employs increases. The amount it taxes it spends goes up. Its reach into every corner of our lives grows. And the number of acts and beliefs it prohibits grows too. For instance, today

there are so many federal crimes (statutes and regulations) that no one has been able to count them. This is one of the reasons that today one in three Americans has a criminal record of some sort.

But many people would be surprised to learn what constitutes a criminal record. For instance, an arrest that never results in charges or a conviction still creates a criminal record. So do very low-level offenses such as improperly filing one of the thousands of compliance reports required by the modern administrative state.

Certainly, not all criminal records are the same. There is a world of difference between a violent crime and a nonviolent crime. But that distinction is often lost, and society tends to lump all “criminal records” together.

This becomes very important because every criminal record comes with a host of consequences that most of us rarely think about. These collateral consequences are legal and regulatory restrictions that limit or prohibit people convicted of crimes from accessing employment, business and occupational licensing, housing, voting and education. And there is rarely any distinction made between people who made simple mistakes and those who are truly dangerous.

Increasingly, states are realizing that this situation makes punishment never-ending, harms families and does nothing to promote public safety. States as diverse as Pennsylvania, Utah, California and Oklahoma have passed legislation in the last few years to seal low-level, nonviolent criminal records of people who have completed their sentences and not committed any new crimes.

Fortunately, some members of Congress are paying attention too and have introduced federal legislation learning from the states’ successes. H.R. 2930, or the “Clean Slate Act,” would have federal courts seal records related to convictions for simple possession of a controlled substance and to arrests for offenses that do not result in a conviction.

In other words, it would give a second chance to low-level offenders and those never even convicted of a crime.

Our justice system was never designed to permanently separate men and women from the rest of society. It was always intended to correct those who break the law and then return them to our communities, repentant, reformed and ready to be fully reintegrated.

The Clean Slate Act offers a practical solution to the problems faced by individuals seeking to reintegrate into communities after paying their debt to society. It will enable them to access education opportunities, employment and housing, all critical for their economic stability and family reunification.

This law would also help reduce recidivism. It is proven that gainful employment correlates with fewer run-ins with the law. It’s also smart policy from a federal spending perspective. After all, taxpayer dollars fund our prison system. It costs us in more ways than one when people enter or re-enter our jails or prisons.

But gainfully employed men and women contribute to our economy. They pay taxes, patronize local businesses, and lend their time and talent to local employers. They deserve an opportunity to do so without navigating the burden of a past they have put behind them.

Benjamin Franklin had the notion that American prisons ought to be devoted to reforming convicted offenders. He wasn’t alone. This way of thinking deeply influenced our justice system. Our prisons couldn’t and shouldn’t be a place of degradation or exploitation, but of moral uplift and social correction.

That’s because prisoners never cease to be men and women made by God, in his image. They never relinquish their inherent dignity. They misused their liberty and must be corrected — no more, no less.

Our criminal system must be a place where the law is carried out and fulfilled, where minds and hearts are corrected. The men and women who carry around criminal records should be given the opportunity to pursue a new life.

Legislation like the Clean Slate Act is good policy. When people make mistakes, we need a system that brings accountability and then offers a second chance. Help them help us build richer communities, freer and fuller local economies, and more robust families.

Timothy Head is executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “The Clean Slate Act isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s smart policy”
  1. As an advocate for criminal justice reform, I believe the Clean Slate Act is not only morally sound but also strategically beneficial. Addressing the issue of excessive criminal records can help individuals reintegrate into society and contribute positively. It’s time for a more nuanced approach to understanding the impact of past mistakes on individuals’ futures.

  2. In my opinion, it is essential to address the issue of over-criminalization and the implications of having a criminal record. The Clean Slate Act not only aligns with moral values but also presents a pragmatic approach towards reforming our legal system.

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