January 16, 2024 — Testimony

NCLC submitted testimony in support of a Massachusetts bill, “An Act providing for easier and greater access to record sealing” (H.B. 1598 / S.B. 979). This bill would require the MA Commissioner of Probation to automatically seal criminal and juvenile records after the applicable waiting periods without the filing of a petition.

Sealing is important because it can properly prevent landlords and employers from using criminal record information that state policymakers have decided should no longer stand in people’s way. Sealing may also provide consumers with powerful remedies under the FCRA, if a background-screening company reports a sealed record to a landlord or employer.

Automatic sealing is essential for ensuring that the benefits of sealing accrue more efficiently and to wider swath of the Commonwealth—including those from vulnerable populations. Indeed, the petition process can be particularly difficult to navigate for people in crisis or those struggling with lack of income or housing, as well as those with limited English language proficiency, disabilities, reading issues, or barriers to information about their eligibility for sealing or opportunities to avail themselves of the current law.