CT Pardons Day teaches lessons in clearing criminal records

Connecticut Pardons Day was launched this year by several cannabis businesses across the state.

John Craven

Jun 18, 2024, 9:40 PM

Updated 33 days ago


In a packed classroom at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, dozens of people took a class in getting their lives back on Tuesday.
It’s all part of Connecticut Pardons Day, a new effort to walk people through the complicated process of applying for an Absolute Pardon, which clears their criminal history.
Bianca Lane came to the class. She was convicted of felony gun possession 10 years ago – a record that has cost her several jobs.
“That was a mistake that I made and that was a time frame in my life,” Lane said. “And that’s not who I am.”
Lane is hoping to follow in Tisheana Burton’s footsteps. Burton received an Absolute Pardon, and now helps others apply for one.
“This event is a pardon event,” she said. “It is for anyone who has had a criminal record that needs to be cleared.”
Connecticut Pardons Day was launched this year by several cannabis businesses across the state. Kennard Ray, Fine Fettle’s CEO of Equity Joint Ventures, organized the event – and is also seeking a pardon himself.
“To be at this point where I am today – to be a CEO at Fine Fettle, to have other things going on – there was no way that I could not partner with something like this,” he said.
Tuesday’s class walked ex-offenders through the long process of applying for an Absolute Pardon with the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles. To apply, three years must pass since your last misdemeanor conviction, or five years since a felony. You also have to be finished with probation or parole, and have no pending cases in any state.
The application process also involves a lot of paperwork – and money.
“You’re going to need a background investigation paper, which costs $75,” said Burton. “Then you’re going to need the police reports for each arrest that you incurred.”
You also need three personal references and fingerprints, which typically cost another $25 at a local police department. But this event pays for it all. Plus, participants meet with an attorney, who will stay with them through the entire process, which can last up to nine months. Non-violent offenses can be considered for Expedited Review, which doesn’t require a hearing.
Many of those who attended Tuesday’s class qualify for automatic record expungement through Connecticut’s Clean Slate Law, passed in 2021.
However, the law has been plagued with technology delays. As of March, only 11% of eligible records – impacting 13,600 people and 33,000 charges – had been cleared, according to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Some of the records may take another year to erase, according to DESPP.
As for Bianca Lane, you might be surprised why she wants a pardon.
“I’m trying to get my pardon because I would like to become a police officer,” she said. “I believe that we need more representation of ourselves -- more people who can understand people who are on the other end.”
Lane is not guaranteed an Absolute Pardon. Ultimately, the Board of Pardons and Paroles decides whether to grant the request based on factors like community service and work history – with input from victims and prosecutors. If you are denied, you must wait one year to re-apply.
If you missed Tuesday’s event, another one will be held on Friday at Quinebaug Community College in Willimantic. You can also find help here.

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