October 2022
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TD Magazine

A Fresh Start for Workers With a Criminal History

Friday, September 30, 2022

Clean slate laws seal criminal records for eligible individuals, opening the door to more employment opportunities.

Employers are still struggling to hire workers with the right skills and knowledge. Meanwhile, many individuals are looking for jobs, but their arrest records are holding them back.


In the HR Dive article "Colorado Becomes 7th State With a Clean Slate Law," Abby Diebold, communications manager at the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, says, "Businesses are confronting an unprecedented hiring shortage. At the same time, more than 70 million Americans—about one-third of the total adult population—face unnecessary barriers to entering the workforce because of old criminal records." However, in some areas, that is changing.

In June, Colorado followed the footsteps of six other US states, enacting a clean slate law that, according to pre-employment screening company Pre-Employ, provides "an automatic process for sealing criminal records if an individual remains free of additional criminal convictions for a certain period of time." In addition to the states that have enacted laws, other states have legislation pending.

For those who remain crime free, the Colorado clean slate law automatically seals records of arrests that didn't result in convictions. It also seals records for petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies after a specific amount of time. However, records for violent crimes, such as murder and assault, are ineligible. The sealed records are excluded from background checks, except when an individual applies for a job in certain industries that use FBI background checks.


Clean Slate Colorado, a coalition of businesses and organizations including JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, and Goodwill of Colorado, supported the legislation. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, underemployment of formerly incarcerated individuals costs the US economy $78 billion to $87 billion annually. During an April 2022 virtual roundtable on employment equity, panelist Teresa Y. Hodge, president of the nonprofit Mission: Launch, noted that formerly incarcerated individuals leave prison with unique skill sets, such as problem solving and entrepreneurial thinking. "This is a talent pool that can really help employers grow their business," she said.

In February, a clean slate law went into effect in Utah. Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance, explains that "Clean slate is a key step to rebuild our workforce and drive our economic recovery forward. The smart policy of automating the expungement process will give thousands of deserving Utahns the second chances they deserve, while at the same time making our state a better place to live and work."

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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