After yearlong delay, CT finally erasing 'Clean Slate' criminal records
Just in time for Christmas, more than 80,000 people are finally seeing their criminal records automatically erased under Connecticut's Clean Slate Law.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that the law is finally being implemented – a year after the records were supposed to be removed.
OLD CONVICTIONS, NEW BARRIERS
Churches are a place of redemption, so Lamont chose New Haven's Community Baptist Church to make the announcement. On a chalkboard, he symbolically "erased" thousands of old convictions – including Helen Caraballo's.
"Twelve years ago, I was with the wrong crowd," she said. "I got arrested; was charged with a felony."
Since then, Caraballo has earned a nursing degree. But she still struggles to find work – thanks to her old drug conviction.
"I did three rounds of interviewing. They loved me," she said. "I went to go do my fingerprints and never heard from them again."
CLEAN SLATE LAW
In 2021, Connecticut became only the third state to pass a Clean Slate Law. It was supposed to be fully implemented by the start of 2023, but that was delayed a full year due to $8 million in needed upgrades to Connecticut's criminal justice database. State lawmakers also had to clarify parts of the law during this year's legislative session.
The erasures will now happen between now and late January.
After seven years, most misdemeanors will be automatically erased – no action is required by the person. After a decade, minor felonies (Class D, E, and unclassified felonies) will also be erased – except for crimes involving family violence or sexual abuse. More serious crimes do not qualify.
"In the case of a lot of these Black and brown people, they've been serving this time, and then the time that they served, the records still follow them," said Rodney Moore, with Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT).
But not everyone will see their records wiped clean right away.
Approximately 28,752 additional convictions for operation while under the influence are expected to be erased by the end of March 2024, according to Lamont's office. Another 62,364 people will have to wait until June, while their records are manually checked. And those with convictions before the year 2000 must be request erasure here.
"Several IT systems went live in 2000, and there would be inadequate reliable data to complete those automated erasures," said Marc Pelka, a criminal justice adviser to Lamont.
“WE LEFT SOME FOLKS BEHIND”
Supporters want to expand the Clean Slate Law.
“We left some folks behind when we did this policy,” said state Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), who was instrumental in passing the 2021 law. “Some people won't like to hear this, but until we've said that common sense approach applies to everyone, I ain’t done.”
But Lamont, who was initially nervous about Clean Slate, is lukewarm on expansion.
“I think we just passed this,” he said. “It goes into effect in about a week. Let’s see how we do and then we’ll go from there.”
Meantime, Helen Carballo understands people have reservations about wiping her old record clean.
“I'm no longer who I was 12 years ago. I’m not the person that I was a year ago,” she said. “Finally this happened, so I’m not going to be judged by my record anymore. They'll look at me as a person.”
Click here to see if your criminal record has been cleared yet.