Connecticut’s Clean Slate Law Seals Criminal Records of People Convicted of Misdemeanors, Some Felonies

Excerpt of press conference with Rodney Moore, Phil Kent and Helen Caraballo, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

Connecticut is one of 12 states in the U.S. to have passed some form of Clean Slate legislation, which seals the criminal records of people convicted of misdemeanors and some felonies, whether or not they ever served time in prison. Connecticut’s bill was signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in 2021, but faced technical problems in implementation, which delayed its implementation for a year.

The group leading the effort to pass the Clean Slate law was CONECT, Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, representing 39 faith communities using their collective voice to demand change on social, economic, and political issues affecting the state’s families and communities.

The governor and other elected officials joined leaders of the grassroots effort to pass the law at a Dec. 18 press conference, celebrating the Clean Slate’s law’s implementation effective on January 1st.  Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus covered the press conference and presents excerpts of comments from three of the speakers. We hear first from Rodney Moore, who works for Healthy Start, a program that supports fathers, many of whom were formerly incarcerated.

RODNEY MOORE: Now, Clean Slate is an opportunity for tens of thousands of people right here in Connecticut to be released from second class status for convictions for which they have long since paid their debt. With Clean Slate, Connecticut can be a model for states across the country for how we can begin to end the continuing harm of mass incarceration, which has been particularly devastating to Black and brown communities here and across the country.

Clean Slate is good for families. It is good for the fathers that I work with every day who are part of New Haven Healthy Start Father Initiative and just want to get their life back on track to support their families. And it’s good for our communities that can regain some wholeness and benefit from new opportunities opened by the implementation of Clean Slate. The numbers you will see later on this chalk board up here represent tens of thousands of people within Connecticut who will have their records automatically erased starting in January.

MELINDA TUHUS: That was Rodney Moore, one of the tri-chairs of CONECT’s criminal reform team. Next up is Phil Kent, another of the tri-chairs and a member of Congregation Mishkan Israel, a member congregation of CONECT.

PHIL KENT: Clean Slate started in Connecticut in 2018 with house meetings in our communities and our congregations, some in this very church. We asked people to share their stories about what needs to change to make Connecticut better and they inspired us. When we learned that Clean Slate had passed in Pennsylvania but only for misdemeanors, we went to work to bring Clean Slate to life in Connecticut and improve it by addressing some felonies. We met with legislators across the board, professors, legal professionals, people with lived experience in the system, victims’ advocacy groups and numerous allies.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the people with the strength to talk about life in the shadow of a criminal record. Connecticut was just the fourth state to adopt Clean Slate when it passed in 2021. Now 12 states have Clean Slate laws, including New York just recently, and bringing new inspiration, Pennsylvania just passed its third update to Clean Slate last week to now include sealing of felony records.

Connecticut and the nation are waking up to the hope and power of redemption. Clean Slate builds a positive feedback loop: it’s good for individuals and their families, who will get better jobs, more stable housing and more higher education opportunities. This is good for business and our economy, which greatly needs more workers. And it’s good for governance that reduces recidivism and makes our legal system smarter, more efficient and more humane.

MELINDA TUHUS: That was Phil Kent, one of the tri-chairs of CONECT’s criminal reform team. Next up is Helen Caraballo, one of the tens of thousands of Connecticut residents who will benefit from Clean Slate implementation by having her criminal record sealed.

HELEN CARABALLO: Twelve years ago, after surrounding myself with the wrong crowd, I was arrested and charged with a felony. Eventually I pled guilty to a felony drug conspiracy, and the judge sentenced me to a suspended sentence. But since then, I have been serving another sentence – not the one that the judge imposed, but one that has been very real with employers, landlords, schools and professions that have judged me ever since.

Despite these never-ending judgments, I moved forward and continued to strive to be better. I went back to school and recently became a CNA and I’m licensed as a certified nursing assistant. I was given an opportunity by Yale Hospital and now work in one of the intensive care units. I have five wonderful children and I’m very active in their school and I’m also very active in my parish. I’ve worked very hard to rebuild my life.

Just this past March, I experienced an issue with the job because of my record. They love me so much, and I went through three rounds of interviews in one afternoon. I told them about my record and they assured me it was so long ago that they wouldn’t even take it into consideration. I got so excited. But after running my background and doing my fingerprints, I never heard from them ever again. This has been the best Christmas present that I could have ever gotten. Thank you.

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