For Immediate Release
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Americans with Past Convictions Urge Congress to Act As House CJS Committee Supports Funding to Clear Old Criminal Records
With nearly 80M Americans held back by past conviction records, Congress must include $100M for National Criminal History Improvement Program in final appropriations bill
63% of voters surveyed support federal funding to clear old records
WASHINGTON – Americans living with old criminal records and public safety experts applauded a U.S. House Committee for supporting a $100 million investment in state-level record clearance, while urging the full House to include it in the final appropriations bill. The federal funding would help states modernize data systems to clear the old legal records that can hold nearly 80 million Americans back from jobs, housing, and other opportunities long after the old files have any relevance to public safety.
In a new report today, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee recommended a crucial funding increase to the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) for state-level record expungement, which provides people who have completed their sentences and remain crime-free with the opportunity to have the old criminal record removed. Should Congress include this funding in the final appropriations bill, it would help ensure that states have the federal resources they need to provide millions of Americans with the opportunities to gain stability and success that make communities safer. American voters have expressed overwhelming support for such efforts, with 63 percent of surveyed voters across party and race supporting the use of federal funding to improve state criminal justice data systems for the automatic clearance of qualifying old convictions once they are eligible for removal.
“Congress has an opportunity to make sure that people who are trying to move forward in their lives are able to access the opportunities that we know are critical to building healthier communities and a stronger economy,” said Jay Jordan, vice president of Alliance for Safety and Justice and national director of the organization’s #TimeDone campaign, which organizes people with past convictions to provide opportunities for success. “We applaud the House CJS Committee for recommending this significant funding increase, and urge Congress to back this popular proposal that will give millions of Americans the chance to succeed.”
The House CJS Subcommittee report builds on research from Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) in its Toward Stability and Safety report, which details the barriers faced by the nearly 80 million Americans living with past convictions, including:
- Old records keep people from finding jobs and housing: nearly 70% of people with an old felony record had difficulty finding a job, and 58% of people with an old record struggled to find housing
- People with past convictions experience less safety: 41% said they were victimized by crime but unable to obtain help, and 41% said they had difficulty feeling safe. People who are younger or are Black reported an even larger safety gap
- Unaddressed health issues increase instability: 62% percent of people with a past conviction said mental health or substance abuse issues were a factor leading to their conviction, and people with past records with untreated mental health issues were more likely to experience difficulty feeling safe (53%) and, if they were victimized by crime, were less likely to be able to obtain help (51%)
Based on these findings, ASJ and members of #TimeDone had urged lawmakers to increase safety and stability by directing funds toward clearing old records and supporting reentry into the workforce. They called on the federal government to fund and incentivize states to update their data and information systems so that old criminal records can be automatically removed, in line with today’s recommendation from the House CJS Subcommittee. They also called for federal policymakers to direct funding to spur new safety priorities, like those that would reallocate funding from prisons and jails to reentry and workforce development programs, a shift that more than twice as many surveyed voters preferred.
ABOUT ALLIANCE FOR SAFETY AND JUSTICE
Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. It partners with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education, and advocacy. For more information, visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org.