Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed legislation Thursday that could make it easier for D.C. residents to seal their criminal records.
Bowser proposed that arrests that aren't prosecuted or don't end with a conviction automatically be sealed. The plan also calls for reduced wait times for record sealings, and a review of the types of convictions eligible for record sealing, according to a statement from her office.
"We know that when we remove barriers to housing, education and employment for some residents by giving them a clean slate, we are actually building a safer, stronger city for all residents," the mayor said in the statement."Through this legislation, we will give more individuals, more families, and more neighborhoods a fair shot at success."
Over 40,000 people are arrested every year in D.C., and only one-third of those people are prosecuted.
Brian Ferguson works in the mayor's office helping people who were released from prison assimilate back into regular life. He also was in prison for 11 years before having a conviction for homicide overturned. He said these laws could help people get back on their feet.
"Arrest records are holding them back from being able to potentially obtain employment, professional licensing, education or housing," Ferguson said.
Sealed criminal records can't be accessed by landlords, employers or other third parties during a background check. However, certain employers that serve vulnerable people, law enforcement officials and courts can see them.
Currently, under D.C. law, people must petition to have their records sealed by proving their innocence, which can take from six months to years.
According to Bowser's statement, more than 10,000 people annually ask for help to have their records sealed in D.C. Superior Court from the Public Defender Service.