For Immediate Release
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Public Safety Advocates & Americans with Old Criminal Records Applaud Senate Support for State Record Clearance, Urge Action
With nearly 80 million Americans held back by an old record, Congress must include $100 million for National Criminal History Improvement Program in final appropriations bill, as recommended by House
WASHINGTON — Americans living with old criminal records and public safety experts applauded the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for clarifying that existing funding for criminal justice data improvements can be used to support state-level record clearance. Now, Congress must complete the appropriations process and pass a full budget by the end of the year.
On Monday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released the remaining nine Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Bills. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended language that would clarify the use of National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) funding for state-level record expungement.
This important guidance—in addition to the House’s recommended funding increase for NCHIP—in the final appropriations bill 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 affiliation 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.
“The Senate Appropriations Committee took an important step forward for American families and our economy with its bill language on record clearance,” said Jay Jordan, Vice President of Alliance for Safety and Justice and National Director of its #TImeDone program that mobilizes people living with old records to access economic opportunity and success. “The broad disenfranchisement of nearly 80 million Americans living with an old record that is no longer relevant undermines the ability to earn a job, secure housing, and support your family. Despite the fact that approximately 9 out of 10 of our fellow Americans with old records are no longer in the justice system and trying to move forward in their lives, they remain blocked from economic opportunity. The American economy loses $87 billion every year, our communities are less safe, and we place financial independence and stability out of reach for millions of families. Clearing old legal records at the state level is an overdue solution that is one step closer.”
Both the House and Senate CJS Subcommittees’ reports build 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 more significant 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%).
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 the recommendation from the Senate 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.