Friday, July 17, 2015

PA officials look at easing the burden of criminal records

Riding a wave of interest in criminal-justice reform among liberals and conservatives alike, Pennsylvania state lawmakers and nonprofit groups this week renewed calls to erase criminal records for some offenders convicted of minor crimes, Philadelphia Inquirer.
Their focus was on Senate Bill 166, which would give those convicted of second- or third-degree misdemeanors, such as retail theft, the chance to have their records expunged after 10 years if they have stayed out of trouble. The measure, supported by Gov. Wolf, also would require law enforcement agencies to remove arrest records after three years in cases in which defendants had not been convicted. In an afternoon conference call, State Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf (R., Montgomery) and State Rep. Jordan A. Harris (D., Phila.) said the bill was poised to pass the House when lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week. The Senate unanimously approved the proposal in February.
Many states, including New Jersey, already have such laws. But Pennsylvania's bill reflects the growing momentum throughout the nation - from President Obama to the conservative Koch brothers - to find ways to reduce swelling prison and jail populations and their associated costs. 
Expungement offers one less barrier to convicts seeking a stable job, something that makes them far less likely to re-offend and return to jail, advocates say.

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