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Showing posts with label sealing records. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sealing records. Show all posts

Monday, January 7, 2019

New 'clean slate' law gives some ex-offenders fresh hope on jobs, housing

New 'clean slate' law gives some ex-offenders fresh hope on jobs, housing
Pennsylvanians with old, low-level offenses on their records have fresh hope that past mistakes won’t cost them new jobs or housing.

As of Dec. 26, the state’s new Clean Slate Law allows people to petition to seal legal records in many misdemeanor cases that are more than 10 years old.

“Non-violent first-degree misdemeanors and most simple assault convictions became eligible for sealing, if the individual has not been convicted for 10 years and if no fines and costs are owed,” Sharon Dietrich, legislation director for Community Legal Services, explained in a press release.

A second phase of the law will kick in on June 28, when courts will begin automatically sealing records in eligible cases.

Here are answers to some key questions about the new law and how it works.

How is a criminal record sealed?

An ex-offender starts by completing a Petition for Order for Limited Access, a one-page form at the Self-Help Center at the county courthouse and online at

It asks for such information as the charges and the judge who imposed sentence.

If the offense happened in Lancaster County, the completed petition should be taken to the Clerk of Courts at the Lancaster County courthouse. There’s a $137 fee, but the indigent may seek a waiver.

Clerk of Courts Jacquelyn Pfursich said her office sends the petition to the judge who imposed sentencing and to the District Attorney’s Office. The district attorney has 30 days to challenge the petition, leading to a hearing before the judge. But if the district attorney doesn’t object, no hearing is needed.

District Attorney Craig Stedman said he expects that filing an objection would be rare, happening, perhaps, if facts on a petition were misrepresented.

Stedman called Clean Slate an overdue, crime-prevention measure because it promotes employment.

“If someone can have a job, they are tying themselves to the community,” he said. “That's a great indicator that the person is less likely to commit crime.”

For those who need it, free legal help is available through “My Clean Slate,” a program created by Community Legal Services in partnership with the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Volunteer attorneys will help to determine if someone is eligible for the provisions of the Clean Slate legislation, which went into effect on Dec. 26.

The program’s website is at

What happens after the judge grants the petition?
The Clerk of Courts Office marks its record of the conviction: “Sealed. Not open for public inspection.”

The office also notifies the police department, the magisterial district judge, Lancaster County Prison and other agencies that they are prohibited from sharing the records.

How does automatic sealing work?

The new law creates an automated process to seal any arrest that didn’t result in a conviction, summary convictions after 10 years, and some misdemeanor convictions for those who've been law-abiding for 10 years.

For those cases, no petition needs to be filed starting June 28.

Instead, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts will pull eligible records from its database of all criminal records and submit them to the Pennsylvania State Police to check for possible conflicts. The ex-offender will get a letter saying the old record will no longer show up on background checks.

The state will remove eligible docket sheets from its online listing of criminal cases, but not the listing of fines and costs.

The state office will also notify the Clerk of Courts which of its records must be sealed.

Pfursich said she doesn’t know how many local cases could end up sealed. In 2018, a record 7,522 criminal cases were filed locally.

Are people taking advantage of the new law already?

About 700 people statewide petitioned to have their records sealed in the first week after the law took effect, Gov. Tom Wolf said at a news conference Wednesday.

But it's too early to predict the law's impact here, officials said.

In Lancaster County, there wasn’t immediately a noticeable increase in the number of petitions for offenses that fit within the margins of the Clean Slate Law, according to Steve Gumm, the executive director of the Lancaster Bar Association.

But the bar association is “very happy with the law's passage” and sees it as the right step for those whose old, non-violent offenses have created barriers for their lives.

Attorney Mark F. Walmer, who routinely handles cases for sealing, expunging or pardoning past offenses, said he believes the big change will be the phase of automated sealing, when petitions will no longer be needed for eligible offenses.

“The sealing statute will be good for people who have one or two very old misdemeanor offenses," he said.

Walmer noted that the responsibility for verifying that a record has been automatically sealed will fall on individuals. Under the law, only “non-controversial” offenses are automatically sealed; other cases — those that include multiple charges or have unpaid fees, for example — make it through the automated system.

“There are many different disqualifications," Walmer said. “Know exactly what is on your record, have it reviewed by an attorney.”

How big a difference will it make?

Tara Loew leads Lancaster CareerLink’s Re-Entry Services, which works with job-seekers who have criminal backgrounds.

That program serves about 600 people a year, she said, and overall, about a quarter of the people Lancaster CareerLink works with report some kind of criminal record.

Many employers ask about misdemeanor convictions, she said, and retail theft charges can be “extremely limiting” for job-seekers, “more so than felony charges in some cases.”

Loew expects the new law to have a big impact on job-seekers.

In addition to giving individuals that deserve it a second chance, she said, the law breaks down barriers to finding full-time life-sustaining employment — helping families thrive and contributing to the local economy and community safety, as someone gainfully employed is much less likely to reoffend.

She said it also helps employers who might be inclined to give applicants a second chance by taking liability away from them, because legally they’re hiring someone with a “clean slate.”

Loew also said CareerLink has recently held two free criminal record legal clinics for job-seekers, with MidPenn Legal Services, Lancaster Bar Association, Rep. Mike Sturla and the law firm Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki Smith P.C.

Attendees got a chance to have an attorney look over their records and see what their options might be, she said, and when possible were offered free continuing legal help.

The clinics were a hit, Loew said, and CareerLink now plans to offer them quarterly, capped at 30 attendees.

Can an employer ask about sealed records?

Attorney Jennifer Craighead Carey, chair of the Barley Snyder Employment Practice Group, said in an email that Clean Slate prohibits employers from requesting criminal history records that have been sealed and they may not rely on such information in making an employment decision.

The law also allows applicants questioned about sealed records to answer as if the offense did not occur, she wrote, recommending that employers use disclaimer stating that applicants “should not provide information about expunged or sealed criminal convictions.”

How do employers feel about Clean Slate?

Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber, said it hasn’t heard much from employers about the new law, but he believes they’re generally supportive of it.

“No one is looking for additional barriers to hiring people,” he said, noting that the current workforce need is the most acute he’s seen in 19 years with the chamber. “There are companies that are literally turning down business opportunities because they don’t have the workers, and that is relatively widespread.”

He doesn’t consider the law a game-changer for employers, he said, but does think it “gives some people who might have been hesitant to fully enter the workforce because of some past indiscretions the confidence to come back, and that’s a win-win.”

Harold G. Ford III of NetAtWork is president of Lancaster Society for Human Resource Management.

He noted that Clean Slate passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support and said, “I think that says really clearly this is really good for potential applicants but also for employers.”

Does it increase housing accessibility?

Ninety percent of the landlords that Tabor Community Services works with through its Community Housing Solutions program — an initiative of the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness — have background checks as part of their screening process, according to organization president Michael F. McKenna and program manager Laura Willmer.

Although not the only criteria landlords are applying when screening tenants, past criminal offenses can create an additional barrier to affordable housing, McKenna said.

Tabor does not track the criminal records of those within their programs, but a significant number of those who have disclosed their background would fall under the Clean Slate law's parameters, Willmer and McKenna said.

“Some landlords will do a full background check and look for absolutely everything and others do not do one at all,” said Ann Linkey division manager at Tabor.

Usually, the criminal screenings are to find “violent and drug-related" offenses, Linkey said. The types of offenses that landlords and property managers find disqualifying vary.

“Some will look at a DUI and let it go if it was just that, others would say no,” she said.

Although her team does not track how many housing applications were rejected due to criminal background checks and what those offenses were, it does happen, Linkey said.

“It's a good thing for our clients who have those kinds of backgrounds," Linkey said of Clean Slate.

“It will complement the federal Fair Housing Act," Ray D'Agostino, chief executive officer at the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership, said of the new law. In most cases, real estate decisions based solely on criminal records are already prohibited, he said.

This article originally published at

New 'clean slate' law gives some ex-offenders fresh hope on jobs, housing

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Eric Mayo

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Erasing a criminal past for Felons

Jobs for Felons:  Can I teach with an old Felony?

Jobs for Felons: Can I teach with an old Felony?
I am a Black Man in America in 2018. I am having difficulty getting any employment because of a 1977 felony conviction. Since I got out in 1979, I got my college degree and two teaching licenses in two states-Indiana and Illinois. My “inability” to get employment seems as if this is nothing but a higher form of Jim Crow.

I realize that I am not by myself but this appears so unfair to people that are trying to live a totally new life.  So many people talk about “rehabilitation” but it seems as if it is just talk. I have also been a member of NA and AA for 32 years. I had a drug problem and I knew that if I resumed my habit, I would have returned to the penitentiary. I took care of that first because it was so important to do that.

I taught school for the public schools system for 13 years. I disclosed my felony conviction to the school system and it didn’t pose a problem to the system. Why is it posing a problem now?

I served my time and I have totally changed my life. Will I have to pay for this the rest of my life.  I was 26 years old when this happened and I am now 64 years old.

The law needs to be changed. Once a person serves his/her time that should be the end of it.
I don’t understand how I taught for the school system for 13 years and my background was disclosed.
There also has been no recidivism in my case. I can understand people going back to the penitentiary but I have only gone once. What I have done with my life should matter but it does not.  I always thought that the goal of incarceration was rehabilitation. Is it really?? Incarceration has become a viable business.

People can change their lives. By not allowing someone to change their life is such a grave mistake.
Why shouldn’t I be bitter? I will never give up in what seems as if an uphill battle. Racism is still here. I could care less about having a Black president.

 Jobs for Felons:  Can I teach with an old Felony?


That's quite a story.  I'm not sure why you were let go after so many years even though you disclosed the conviction at the time of your hire.  As for having a Black President, the food he eats doesn't fill my belly.

Jobs for Felons: Can I teach with an old Felony?It's easy to be discouraged and start doubting yourself and society as a whole.  Instead, lets concentrate on some things that perhaps we haven't though about before as alternatives.  Don't give up hope of being a teacher.  In fact, you have already done the hard part.  You have a degree and you are already certified.  You have another very important quality.  You have experience and the wisdom and maturity of an older person.  All you will need now is to find teaching opportunities where your conviction will matter a lot less than it does to the public school system.

There are many alternatives to teaching in the public school system.  In fact I encourage many of my students who are ex-offenders and felons and also have college degrees to pursue teaching as a career.  Let's look at a few options.

Private Schools  - These schools are supported by a private organization or private individuals rather than by the government and therefore may have quite different eligibility requirements.

Career Schools - A career or vocational school is different from a four year college.  Instead of taking four years to get a degree, a vocational school allows students to get specialized training in specific career fields in two years or less.  These schools also require courses in general subjects like math, English and science just like traditional colleges.

Community Colleges - Community colleges, sometimes called junior colleges, are two-year schools that provide affordable education as a pathway to a four-year degree or a particular career.
Community colleges prepare students for jobs that require higher education or workforce training.  Typically community colleges work with employers to develop flexible, affordable and relevant training programs and partner with businesses which meet local commercial and regional economic needs. These colleges also have traditional degree programs.

Charter Schools - Charter schools are independent schools that have received a charter, which is a set of self-written rules and goals which determine how the school will be structured and run. Generally, they are able to organize a school that operates outside the control of the local school district but still funded by local, state, and federal tax money.  Essentially charter schools are free public schools that don't have to follow the same regulations as the local school district.

These are just a few options I can think of just off the top of my head. There maybe a lot more but this is a start.  If you are fortunate enough to get interviews, be prepared to talk about your conviction.  As I tell all of my students in your position, when asked about the conviction, briefly speak about it and how it has changed your thinking and your approach to life.

Focus the conversation on the time that has passed and what you have done since then to improve yourself and how you have used your own experiences to encourage young people not to make the same mistakes that you have.

Just don't let your recent stumble keep you from moving forward.

Best of luck to you.

 Jobs for Felons: Can I teach with an old Felony?

Jobs for Felons: The Facts about Companies that Hire Ex offenders and Felons (2018)

Jobs for Felons:  Can I teach with an old Felony?

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Eric Mayo

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Does sealing of records help felons get jobs?

Does sealing of records help felons get jobs?

State speeds sealing of criminal records

I had a deferred sentence. After completing probation, the guilty plea was withdrawn. I then sealed the record. This was twenty years ago. I then applied for a job as a corrections officer and was denied the position because my federal background said I had this on my record. Please help. Not sure if I was denied because of the deferred judgment or because I did not disclose my sealed record.

I am confused, so let me tell you what I know about deferred sentences.

Does sealing of records help felons get jobs?

Does sealing of records help felons get jobs?
Often first time offenders, depending on the severity of the crime, are offered adjudicated sentences as a means to keep the load on the court system down. The offender is given certain terms to abide by. In most cases, when the terms are met (usually a fine and probation,) the original charges are dropped but they remain as charges not convictions. Anyone accessing your record will not see the charges. The exception is that your deferment and its terms are always visible to the court system, law enforcement and government agencies. The same applies to expungement and sealing of records. Many ex-offenders and felons looking for jobs consider expungement to help the get jobs. Expungement and sealing will only hide the record from public view but it will still be visible to the court system, law enforcement and government agencies.

I hope this gives you a better understanding.  This is not intended as legal advice just a bit of information.  To get a more definitive understanding as it relates to the statutes in your state, speak with a qualified legal professional.

I always suggest that my students contact the nearest legal aid office.  Legal aid can give you answers about expungement and/or sealing of records as it relates to your state.  Legal aid may offer low-cost or no cost assistance in getting the process done.

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Does sealing of records help felons get jobs?

Does sealing of records help felons get jobs?

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  Does sealing of records help felons get jobs?

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