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More than 80,000 in CT to get misdemeanor and felony charges erased after delay

Gov. Ned Lamont and Rogsbert “Tammy” King, who has spoken about her own struggles with finding employment due to her criminal record, celebrate after they ceremonially erase the convictions of more than 80,000 people at a press conference located at the Community Baptist Church in New Haven on December 19, 2023. Eligible convictions include mostly misdemeanors and some felonies. The process which will be automatic will begin in January.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
Gov. Ned Lamont and Rogsbert “Tammy” King, who has spoken about her own struggles with finding employment due to her criminal record, celebrate after they ceremonially erase the convictions of more than 80,000 people at a press conference located at the Community Baptist Church in New Haven on December 19, 2023. Eligible convictions include mostly misdemeanors and some felonies. The process which will be automatic will begin in January.

Formerly incarcerated people will soon have an easier time getting a job after the state announced it will erase the criminal records of more than 80,000 residents.

The “clean slate” law will benefit people like Helen Caraballo, a New Haven resident who saw her old criminal record seemingly prevent her from getting a job.

"After running my background and doing my fingerprints, I never heard from them ever again," Caraballo said.

Caraballo was charged with a drug felony 12 years ago. She served a suspended sentence, and turned her life around, becoming a certified nursing assistant. But her past mistake still shows up if any one would want to look up any past criminal records.

That’s something the law, which will fully go into effect next month after being delayed, is supposed to eliminate. The records will be automatically erased, but the law only erases low-level offenses and some felonies. That’s after legal pushback led to revisions to the list of eligible convictions, according to CT Mirror.

Up until now, only people with cannabis convictions saw their records erased.

Gov. Ned Lamont, attended a Monday press conference with Caraballo. He said the law means the formerly incarcerated will be able to move on with their lives.

“I want you to send that signal loud and clear that many of us make (a) mistake in life; we're held accountable, we come back,” Lamont said. “It's not a lifetime sentence.”

An eligible person must have a clean record for at least seven years since their last conviction, and the conviction must be on or after January 2000. Older convictions can be erased by petitioning the state.

But erasure is a misnomer; the records are technically flagged for nondisclosure, meaning the records are made confidential to anyone except a clerk holding on to the records, state officials said. That means the records can’t be accessed through background checks, which are routinely done for people wishing to get a job, find housing or apply for a loan.

All three activities are considered especially difficult for people who were formerly incarcerated. Many of them end up getting denied opportunities due to their past convictions.

"Helen Caraballo speaks at the Community Baptist Church in New Haven on Dec. 18 2023. Caraballo spoke of her difficulties getting work as a result of an old drug conviction which will soon be erased as a result of the clean slate law which began to fully go into effect this week. More than 80,000 people are expected to see their old low level convictions erased, allowing them to better reintegrate themselves into society."
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
"Helen Caraballo speaks at the Community Baptist Church in New Haven on Dec. 18 2023. Caraballo spoke of her difficulties getting work as a result of an old drug conviction which will soon be erased as a result of the clean slate law which began to fully go into effect this week. More than 80,000 people are expected to see their old low level convictions erased, allowing them to better reintegrate themselves into society."

Caraballo said her previous conviction affected her ability to get a home.

But the law is just one part of a larger system to support people coming out of prison, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said. Every year, New Haven sees 900 residents come back from prison, he said. The city has a welcome center to help those getting out.

The erasures will give them a better chance of getting on with their lives.

“And now with this initiative today, it is one step closer to truly following through with what our promise should be; a second chance society,” Elicker said.

Lamont flipped over a blackboard and ceremonially erased a figure detailing the number of convictions set to be deleted to applause. But the law went through several revisions before it was fully implemented. According to CT Mirror, erasure of the records, which the law was signed in 2021, was supposed to be deleted beginning in 2023, but was delayed after revisions to the kinds of convictions deemed eligible for erasure.

But while it was delayed, Kenneth Bruce said the governor gave his word. He works with people getting out of prison.

Bruce said he’s going to wait and see how it plays out over the next few months.

“You're going to erase a lot of records, that means you’re giving people in my community chances,” Bruce said.

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