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Delaware Senate Democrats

Clean Slate, restorative justice bills sponsored by Senator Darius Brown signed into law on Monday

November 8, 2021

DOVER – Governor John Carney today signed into law three restorative justice bills sponsored by Senator Darius Brown.

All three measures build on the second-chance opportunities first created by the Adult Expungement Reform Act of 2019, a centerpiece in Senator Brown’s ongoing efforts to lift Delaware families out of poverty by expanding access to employment and living wages.

Two years ago, SS 1 for SB 37 significantly expanded the availability of expungements to Delawareans beyond the previously narrow population of people who have received a pardon or were charged but never convicted of a crime. Under that legislation adult expungements are now mandatory for some isolated misdemeanors once a petition has been filed with the State Bureau of Identification. The bill also made clear that other charges can be expunged at the discretion of judges with input from both the Delaware Department of Justice and any victims affected by the crime in question.

Building on that success, Senator Brown this year passed Senate Bill 111, also known as the Clean Slate Act, to automate Delaware’s existing expungement process for thousands of adults and juveniles by eliminating the need for them to first file a petition with the State Bureau of Identification. Initial estimates indicate more than 290,000 adults would benefit immediately from the Clean Slate Act once it is fully implemented.

Also signed into law today, Senate Bill 112 would expand the eligibility for mandatory expungements filed with SBI for certain additional convictions – regardless of a person’s prior or subsequent criminal record. These offenses include marijuana possession, drug paraphernalia possession, underage possession or consumption of alcohol, and cases involving multiple violation convictions.

Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 38 includes a number of technical revisions to the Adult Expungement Act of 2019.

To further help people across the First State learn how they can earn a second chance, Senator Brown is currently hosting a series of expungement fairs in each of Delaware’s three counties. The Kent County fair will be held at Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church in Dover from 3-6 p.m. on Tuesday. The Sussex County fair will be held at Georgetown Town Hall in Georgetown from 3-6 p.m. on Nov. 16.
Here is what people are saying about Senate Bills 111, 112 and SS1 for SB 38 being signed into law today:

“We are proud to have supported these important pieces of legislation as they moved through the House and Senate with bipartisan support, and are thrilled that Governor Carney has signed them,” said Tom Horne, market president for JPMorgan Chase in Delaware. “Providing a second chance gives people the opportunity to re-enter the workforce in meaningful jobs so they can provide for their families.”

“A second chance allows individuals to start anew. These bills expand access to record clearing and make it easier for people to take the first step towards a life free from the collateral consequences of a criminal record,” said Lisa Minutola, chief of legal services for the Office of Defense Services. “If we are all judged by the worst thing we’ve ever done, what does that say about us as a society? We need laws that govern with compassion and empathy, and that recognize people have a great capacity to change over time. The Clean Slate Act models just that.”

“Today, Delaware joins a short list of national leaders who are choosing to propel economic recovery and public safety through SB 111 and SB 112,” said John Reynolds, the campaign manager for Clean Slate Delaware. “Most Delawareans with a record face significant barriers to education, employment, housing, credit, and other opportunities to become productive, contributing members of society. This can lead to further arrests, convictions and returns to prison. Because of Clean Slate, hundreds of thousands of people will gain access to the second chance they deserve.”

“Thank you to the sponsors, Governor Carney, grassroot organizations and advocates who worked together to help justice involved Delawareans to obtain a real second chance after they’ve paid their debt to society,” said Dubard McGriff, founder and president of Game Changers. “Although, there’s more work to create a fair and just system, I’m honored to be a part of such historical reforms in our state.”

“In today’s digital era, a criminal record—no matter how old or minor—can be a life sentence to poverty that no judge ever handed down. While record-clearing remedies such as expungement and sealing offer powerful tools to remove barriers to jobs, housing, and educational opportunities, it can be incredibly difficult in practice to get a record cleared due to the cost and complexity of petition-based record-clearing processes. As a result, research finds that fewer than 10 percent of eligible individuals successfully get their records cleared,” said Rebecca Vallas, senior fellow with The Century Foundation. “I am thrilled to see Delaware join the growing ranks of states reforming their record-clearing systems by making the process automatic and automated. By removing government-created barriers to work for Delawareans with records, this legislation will not only put economic opportunity within reach for huge numbers of individuals and families facing the perpetual punishment that comes with a record—it will also help the state achieve a fuller and more inclusive recovery on the other side of the pandemic. Congratulations to Senator Darius Brown, Gov. Carney, and the Delaware General Assembly for taking this important step.”