Conn. Lawmaker Vows Late-Session Push On 'Clean Slate' Bill

By Sarah Martinson | May 14, 2021, 3:18 PM EDT

A Connecticut lawmaker told advocates that a bill allowing for some convictions to be erased from criminal records will soon be raised in the state Senate with less than a month left of the current legislative session to go.

Democrat Sen. Martin Looney, who supports the bill, addressed its supporters at a rally outside the state capitol building Thursday seeking the passage of the so-called Clean Slate Bill, or S.B. 1019.

"So many people's lives have been permanently blighted by a relatively minor conviction that happened to them early in their lives, out of immaturity, a lack of knowledge of how the system works," Looney said in a Thursday statement.

The Connecticut General Assembly's 2021 legislative session ends June 9. If the Clean Slate Bill is not passed by then, the bill will die and have to be reintroduced in the next legislative session, according to the state constitution.

The proposed legislation allows for the automatic erasure of certain misdemeanors after seven years and some felonies after 10 to 15 years. The bill doesn't apply to family violence crimes and convictions that require sex offender registration.

The proposed law also requires the Board of Pardons and Paroles to participate in annual training about the pardons process and the collateral consequences of criminal records. In addition, the board would have to provide written explanations for denying applicants' pardons, according to the bill.

Democratic Sen. Gary Winfield, who is co-chair of the Connecticut judiciary committee, introduced the bill, which was cleared by the judiciary and appropriations committees in April and May, respectively.

Winfield, who was present at the rally, said in a Thursday statement that the bill gives convicted people a second chance after they have served their sentence and are released from prison.

"What the data tells us is that after a certain period of time you're no more likely to commit a crime than me who hasn't committed a crime," Winfield said.

The bill has received support from legal and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, the Connecticut Legal Rights Project and the New Haven Legal Assistance Association.

ACLU-CT interim senior field organizer and policy advocate Anderson Curtis said in a Thursday statement that the Clean Slate Bill "reflects a promise that if someone has paid their debt to society and goes without a new conviction, they will have a light at the end of the tunnel."

"If our society is going to move forward, we have to build a world where redemption is possible for everyone, and where people are able to support themselves and their families after an arrest or conviction," Curtis said.

--Editing by Gemma Horowitz.

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