But 280,000 other people with felonies and misdemeanors will have to wait another 18 months while the state fully comes online with its new “Clean Slate Law.”
“On Jan. 1, thousands of people in Connecticut will have low-level cannabis convictions automatically erased due to the cannabis legalization bill we enacted last year,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a press release. “Especially as Connecticut employers seek to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings, an old conviction for low-level cannabis possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and educational aspirations.”
The Clean Slate law was passed last year to automatically erase criminal records seven years after a misdemeanor conviction or 10 years after a conviction for most felonies. It was promoted by the ACLU and black activists who said the black community had a 48% conviction rate despite representing 13% of the population, the CT Mirror reported.
Having a criminal record affects job prospects along with the ability to fully integrate with society, they said.
California passed a similar law this fall and joins the states of Pennsylvania, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, Delaware, and Colorado. While several of the states will automatically clear the records, Connecticut requires the offenders to petition courts.
Lamont said the technology does not exist to complete this process on Jan. 1 for a wide swath of crimes. Residents with sex crimes or family violence convictions are not eligible for expungement, the bill says.
“Implementation involves significant information technology upgrades to allow criminal justice agencies to send and receive data to determine who can have their offenses erased and to update record systems,” he said. “The information technology systems involved are complex, and some are outdated. In addition, significant interpretation issues may require clarification by the General Assembly.”
So far, the state has spent $5 million in software upgrades to launch the new Clean Slate program.
Lawmakers and community organizers who pushed for the bill met last week at a Baptist church to discuss their disappointment with the delay.
“Just as powerfully as we talked about the need to do this just a short while ago, we are speaking to the governor of the state and his staff,” Sen. Gary Winfield (D) said. “I will assure you … real work is going on. It is not just because people don’t want to do this work.”