October 20, 2021

Van Hollen, Trone Introduce the Bipartisan Fresh Start Act to Remove Barriers for Justice-Impacted Individuals

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman David Trone (both D-Md.) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to increase funding for automated record expungement processes to help justice-impacted individuals find employment opportunities. 

After decades of overcriminalization, between 70 million and 100 million Americans have criminal records that appear in routine background checks, preventing many individuals from obtaining jobs, housing, and educational opportunities. 

Millions of these individuals are eligible to have their records sealed or expunged, but the complex, and often cost-prohibitive, process makes it almost impossible for these Americans to receive a second chance at life. 

“Providing Americans with a fresh start after serving their time is key to ensuring they’re able to rebuild their lives and positively impact our communities. This legislation will help remove the barriers that stand in the way of a successful reentry – including access to housing, education, and employment. I’m proud to put forward this common-sense, bipartisan bill with my colleagues,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“The Fresh Start Act will allow thousands of Marylanders, and millions of Americans, to get back on their feet,” said Congressman Trone. “By removing barriers to employment, we are directly helping these individuals contribute positively to their communities after they’ve served their time. They need a fresh start, and this bill provides it.”

Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Trone were joined by multiple Members of Congress in support of this vital effort. Senator Van Hollen was joined by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Congressman Trone was joined by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), and Cori Bush (D-Mo.).

“As we look to build back better, we must lift up those involved in the criminal justice system working to rebuild their lives for themselves and their families,” said Senator Bob Casey. “This bill will provide states important resources to implement automated record sealing to give Americans a full and fair second chance at more meaningful education, employment, and housing opportunities. This is one important step in the ongoing fight for criminal justice reform and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to get this over the finish line.”

“Individuals who have served their time shouldn’t have to face barriers when they’re trying to rebuild their lives,” said Rep. Rodney Davis. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Fresh Start Act with colleagues from both sides of the aisle - because the federal government can serve as an important partner with states as they try to reform their criminal justice systems and improve their record-sealing and expungement processes.”

“From housing, to education, to employment, there are too many hurdles that our justice-involved citizens must navigate when trying to return to society. The Fresh Start Act is based on a simple premise – that those who have served their time and paid their debt to society deserve a clean slate and a second chance,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. “That’s why I’m so proud to join Congressman Trone, Congressman Davis, and all of the cosponsors of this bill to say with a unified and bipartisan voice that record sealing and expungement provides a true second chance to justice-involved individuals, helps spur and grow the economy, and helps build a better and more resilient society.” 

“This is a good bipartisan, common sense criminal justice reform that I am proud to join,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw said. “This bill will allow those who have completed their time an opportunity to re-enter society and the workforce – becoming productive members of society and economy, rather than remain stigmatized. This will have positive effects on opportunity, which should decrease recidivism. I am happy to join Rep. Trone in this legislation.”

“In my time in the Pennsylvania State Senate, I was proud to work on the country’s first statewide clean slate legislation,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler. “The Fresh Start Act will improve the automatic record sealing and expungement programs in Pennsylvania and other states with similar laws. In turn, this bill will provide Americans who have paid their debts to society with a chance to fully contribute to their communities.”

“Too many Americans face insurmountable barriers to full employment, housing, and education, despite having paid their debt to society. Having a minor or decades-old criminal record should not be a life sentence, but millions of Americans cannot get a fresh start because clearing their records is so burdensome and expensive," said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon. “I'm proud to join Rep. David Trone on this legislation to provide Americans with the fresh starts they deserve."

"I'm glad to support a bill that would streamline the record sealing and expungement process for Americans deserving of a second chance," Rep. Stephanie Bice said. "This way, individuals can move forward in life more efficiently to secure jobs, housing, and education.”

“Automated record sealing and expungement for those who apply will give millions of Americans their second chance,” Rep. Madeleine Dean said.“When we know better, we do better — that’s what the Fresh Start Act is.”

“Millions of Americans have conviction records which could effectively punish them for life absent expungement,” said Rep. Victoria Spartz. “I am proud to co-lead the Fresh Start Act to provide a second chance to the individuals who completed their sentences and improve the efficacy of our criminal justice systems.”

“Every one of our neighbors, friends, and family members deserves a full opportunity at life,” said Rep. Cori Bush. “No one should be denied a fresh start because of a lack of government funds. Right now, our system is designed to keep Black and brown folks trapped in cycles of incarceration. I am proud to join my friend, Congressman Trone, in introducing the Fresh Start Act to ensure no one’s dreams are ever held back due to slow bureaucracy as this investment would seal or expunge records immediately. St. Louis deserves a fair chance, and that’s exactly what the Fresh Start Act will make happen.”