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Clean Slate Act passes legislature with Chase support

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DOVER – A bill that would speed up the expungement process for certain crimes cleared the General Assembly in June and now heads to Gov. John Carney for his consideration.

Backed by JPMorgan Chase and other large employers, the Clean Slate Act would streamline the record-clearing process by automating expungement for eligible misdemeanors and felonies, opening up new job opportunities for thousands of Delawareans.

Sen. Darius Brown

State Sen. Darius Brown (D-Wilmington) introduced the act under Senate Bill 111. More than 290,000 Delawareans could qualify to have their records automatically expunged under the bill, Brown said.

SB111 would augment the Adult Expungement Reform Act of 2019, which made certain low-level offenses, such as disorderly conduct and personal drug possession, eligible for expungement, but only after a petition had been filed with the State Bureau of Identification.

SB111 takes out the time-consuming petition process by automating the mandatory category of eligible crimes. Once signed, the SBI would identify eligible cases on a monthly basis beginning in August 2024.

According to the Center for American Progress, nine in 10 employers, all landlords, and three in five colleges and universities use background checks to screen out applicants with criminal records.

Criminal records can block employment opportunities, causing communities to lose on average $5,760 in earnings and tax revenue per person, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a New York-based public policy institute.

“We have individuals who are skilled, but things come up in background checks that prohibit them from employment,” Brown said. “We believe no individual should have that one mistake they made end in a life sentence of poverty.”

Research suggests expungements could bolster the economy: In Michigan, people whose records were expunged saw their wages increase by more than 20% the following year, and they were more likely to remain crime-free, per the University of Michigan Law School’s Scholarship Repository.

Brown also introduced Senate Bill 112 to expand the list of charges that qualify for mandatory expungement under the petition-based law. It outlines the eligibility requirements for both children and adults, as well as certain exclusions of high-risk crimes.

SB111 had bipartisan support, though five Republican representatives voted against it.

Tom Horne | PHOTO COURTESY OF JPMORGAN CHASE

Brown said the bill’s passage wouldn’t have been possible without JPMorgan Chase as a corporate partner. The nation’s largest bank, and Delaware’s largest for-profit employer, has pushed for Clean Slate laws in statehouses around the country as well as at the federal level.

“We remain committed to giving people a second chance when it comes to moving beyond their criminal past,” JPMorgan Chase Delaware Market Leader Tom Horne said in a statement. “With a local workforce of more than 11,000 in Delaware, JPMorgan Chase will continue to support policies that will broaden access to job opportunities and drive inclusive economic growth.”

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