Senate Bill 166

New Pennsylvania Law Allows Old and Minor Convictions to be Sealed

Governor Tom Wolf signed SB 166 which will allow people with certain criminal records to have their charges hidden from prospective employers. If they have stayed out of trouble for 10 years after a conviction for most second- or third-degree misdemeanors they can petition the courts to have records of the old crime sealed. The change would essentially remove the convictions from employers’ background checks, school admissions or loan applications, with the intent of opening more doors to those trying to build better lives for themselves. This change will take effect November 14, 2016.

Employers Rejection of People with Criminal Records is Putting a Large Percentage of the Population Out of Work Unnecessarily

FACT #1: Growing numbers of people have criminal records.

  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were about 100 million people with criminal records in the United States as of December 2008.
  • Pennsylvania has the 8th highest corrections population in the country. Although the states crime rate is 24% lower than the national average.
  • Minorities are much more likely to have criminal records. Nationally, African Americans are incarcerated in federal or state prisons at 4.5 times the rate of White people. In Pennsylvania, this disparity is markedly worse: there are 11.1 African Americans and 6.0 Hispanics in federal or state prison for every White prisoner.
  • More than twice as many people are on probation or parole then are incarcerated.

FACT #2  It is harder than ever for people with criminal records to find work.

  • Criminal records are more accessible than ever, from State Police, criminal court records and hundreds of background check companies.
  • According to a 2009 survey of the Society of Human Resource Management, 92 % of their members perform criminal background checks on some or all jobs (up from 51% in 1996).
  • Studies in Milwaukee and Los Angels show that employers are refusing to hire people with criminal records, even for entry level jobs.
  • The list of legal restrictions prohibiting the employment of people with criminal records is large and continues to grow. In Pennsylvania, there are at least 55 occupations in which some people with criminal records are barred, from accountants to veterinarians.

FACT #3 After several years without another conviction, a person with a criminal record is no more likely to offend than a person without a criminal record.

  • After 6 or 7 years, a person with a criminal record presents little more risk than a non-offender.

Information obtained from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.