Texas Appleseed Blog
On April 21, the Clean Slate Texas coalition hosted a Twitter Town Hall, Second Chances as Big as Texas, to discuss breaking down barriers to opportunities for people who have previously been involved in the criminal legal system. All too often, criminal records bar people from housing, employment, education and other necessities, regardless of the offense or how much time has passed.
With at least 9 million Texans living with a criminal record, awareness of this problem is growing. On March 18, 2022, Governor Abbott officially recognized April as Second Chance Month in Texas. And on April 26, President Biden announced new programs to support people reentering after incarceration, including job training and access to capital for people starting their own small businesses.
Despite growing bipartisan awareness, there has been little change to Texas law in recent legislative sessions to help people with criminal records overcome existing barriers. People in Texas are only allowed to seal their records in a very limited number of cases. To obtain a sealing order, one must navigate a complicated, costly process, meaning the majority of eligible people have not sealed their records.
Town Hall participants had some great insights into this problem and ideas about systemic solutions during last week’s discussion. To read the full discussion, search #CleanSlateTownHall on Twitter. Here are some highlights:
Q1: #SecondChanceMonth is a time to reflect on ways people with criminal records are continually denied #SecondChances in Texas. What barriers do people who have been convicted of a crime face after their sentence (probation, jail, prison) is complete? #CleanSlateTownHall
Q2: Research has found that a criminal record reduces a job seeker’s chance of getting a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent. What’s the long-term impact of the reduced employment prospects for Texans with a criminal record? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth
Q3: Data demonstrates racial disparities permeate the criminal legal system at every stage, from traffic stops to sentencing. How do criminal records disproportionately burden communities of color in Texas? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth
Q4: Texas limits record sealing to deferred adjudications & first-time misdemeanor convictions, with few exceptions (click here for more details about eligibility). Who deserves to have their records sealed that isn’t currently eligible? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth #txlege
Q5: What barriers do people face to getting their records sealed even if they are eligible under current law? What changes can #txlege make to the sealing process to ensure people can access relief? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth
Q6: In addition to the necessary changes needed by #txlege to our laws regarding record clearing, what role do private employers play in providing people with #SecondChances? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth
Q7: Thinking beyond incremental changes to the law, what would a society that truly grants #SecondChances to people who were system-involved look like? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth
Q8: People who’ve been directly impacted by the criminal legal system often have the most knowledge about what’s needed to truly create #SecondChances. How can we lift up and center the voices of directly impacted people this #SecondChanceMonth and beyond? #CleanSlateTownHall
Q9: How are you or your organization working to create #SecondChances for people? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth
Q10: If people are interested in advocating for policy changes to expand #SecondChances or in helping people with records, what are some ways they can get more involved? #CleanSlateTownHall #SecondChanceMonth
If you’re interested in learning more and getting involved in the Clean Slate Texas coalition, follow @CleanSlateTexas on Twitter and be sure to join their email list for future updates about their campaign, as well as events like record clearing legal clinics: CleanSlateTexas.org/sign-up.
If you’re directly impacted by the criminal legal system, you can learn more about the advocacy efforts of TCJE’s Statewide Leadership Council and how to join at TexasCJC.org/statewide-leadership-council.
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