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Clearing the Path to a Brighter Future

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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Things just got a little brighter for Oregonians with criminal records.

That’s because Senate Bill 397, also known as Clean Slate Oregon, cleared its first hurdle on the path to becoming Oregon law.

The Oregon Senate Judiciary and Measure 110 Implementation Committee recently approved the bill, which will reduce barriers to requesting criminal record expungement. With this vote, Oregon is on its way to joining a growing number of states nationwide who are transforming the way criminal records impact people’s lives — and making it easier for eligible people to move beyond a troubled past and toward a successful future.

In Oregon, a person can be required to wait up to 20 years before they can apply for their criminal records to be cleared, and some violent offenses and most traffic violations are never eligible. During that waiting period, they must check “yes” in every box that asks about criminal convictions. And those boxes appear in a lot of places, making it harder to access everything from housing to jobs to student loans to volunteer positions.

Even when the waiting period is over, most eligible Oregonians are unsuccessful in getting their records cleared. In fact, while approximately 45% of Oregonians with criminal records are eligible for requesting expungement, research shows only about 7% of them successfully make it through the process. For the majority, the process is too complex, too costly and too difficult to navigate.

Despite having already paid their debt to society, most people with criminal records continue facing consequences for their entire lives.

Senate Bill 397

When eligible individuals are able to expunge their criminal records, great things can happen. An accessible expungement process means:   

  • More and better job opportunities to alleviate poverty, for the individual and their children. 
  • Increased housing stability and housing choice, reducing the risk of homelessness.
  • Increased chances of going back to school — because doors will actually open rather than continue to stay closed. 
  • Stronger ties with family and community — the key to maintaining long-term recovery. 

Felecia Padgett Advocates for Clean Slate Oregon

Felecia Padgett at her desk at CCC's Employment Access Center.

Felecia Padgett’s professional life centers around bringing second chances to people who might otherwise struggle to find meaningful employment.

Felecia Padgett knows firsthand the long-term consequences of a criminal record. That’s why she is joining us to advocate for clean slate legislation.  

Today, Felecia is a supervisor for CCC’s Central City Staffing Program, where she gives people a second chance to succeed. She is a mother, a wife and a homeownerShe also carries the baggage of three felonies, from crimes committed before she overcame substance use disorder nearly a decade ago.   

The first time Felecia confronted what it really meant to have a criminal record was three years into her recovery 

She had been living in supportive housing and working for CCC’s  Clean Start program, cleaning city streets in downtown Portland. She remembers feeling grateful for the job, which was one of few she could get as a person with a criminal record  but she wanted to do more with her life. Felecia kept on working and saving and building her resiliency until she was ready to leave supportive housing and independently apply for an apartment. It was a big step. 

“When I opened that envelope and read the denial and reasons why, it didn’t feel right. I wanted to cry. I just felt so low, and angry too. I had three years clean and still the mistakes I made in my addiction were a slap in the face, holding me back from trying to move forward in my life, Felecia recalls. 

For Felecia, it’s the implications for her family that really hit home. She knows a criminal record can limit opportunities not just for an individual, but for their children as well. And, with nearly ten years free of substance use, she wants what every parent wants: stability, safety, access to opportunities and a better life for her son.   

Felecia Padgett with her family.

As a wife and mother, CCC employee Felecia Padgett knows that criminal record reform would have a huge impact– for her, for her family, and for many of her clients.

“I want to continue to grow, in my job at CCC and in my life. I don’t know where I’ll be in five or ten years, but I want to keep growing. I will get a degree. Maybe have another baby. Sell my house and look for another, maybe one just a little bit bigger  we’ve been in our house for three years, and we’ve been working on it the entire time, Felecia says.  

People should be able to grow when they’re ready, instead of having to wait or not grow at all. That is not equal opportunity. Wouldn’t you want your own child to get clean and move forward and be able to progress in life like everyone else? Wouldn’t you want that for your kids?” 

What’s Next

Senate Bill 397 will now move to the Oregon Senate floor for a full vote. We want to thank the sponsors and champions behind this work, Senators Floyd Prozanski, Chris Gorsek and Kate Lieber, and all the members of the judiciary and implementation committee who voted YES on this critical expungement reform legislation.

There are still many more steps before this legislation becomes law. But we know SB 397 will transform the lives of many of our clients, staff, neighbors and family members — and CCC will continue advocating for its passage. 

To hear from Felecia about her story and why she thinks SB 397 will bring important change for Oregonians, watch her testimony to the senate judiciary and implementation committee.

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Learn more about how CCC is advancing policies to end homelessness, improve health care access, increase economic justice, correct racial disparities and achieve greater alignment of the support systems our clients rely on.

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