Clean Slate Delaware Hosts CSI, Advocates, and Directly Impacted Leaders at State Capitol for Second Chance Month Lobby Day

Delaware’s Clean Slate Act will take effect in August 2024, but for people living with a record in Delaware, that implementation can’t come soon enough. That’s why Clean Slate DE held its first Lobby Day on April 4, 2023, to educate lawmakers on the necessary reforms to make the 2024 implementation successful, accessible, and equitable.

Community advocates, directly impacted leaders, and Clean Slate DE partners, including the ACLU of Delaware, Delaware Center for Justice, and the Clean Slate Initiative, met with state legislators at Legislative Hall in Dover. We’re incredibly proud of the work these dedicated individuals did in bringing our key campaign issues to lawmakers’ attention. Advocates held group meetings with state senators and representatives regarding two campaign priorities: the successful implementation of the state’s automated record sealing law and ensuring all cases that do not include a conviction are eligible for automated expungement.  

Successful implementation means eliminating the barriers that fines and fees present to the expungement process. Despite being among the first states to pass Clean Slate legislation, we’re the only “Clean Slate” state that limits eligibility for record clearance due to outstanding fines and fees. Living with a record can make financial barriers hard to overcome. Fines and fees related to a person’s record often go unpaid because people cannot access stable employment, housing, and opportunities for advancement due to their record. 

Allowing individuals to clear their records regardless of what they owe is a common-sense solution to increase financial stability for Delawareans and help people pay their outstanding fines and fees. Delaware’s reputation as the “First State” should motivate us to set a forward-thinking example: bringing Delaware in line with known best practices will encourage all future states to tackle fines and fees when passing initial Clean Slate laws.

Lobbying groups also addressed the issue of non-conviction records. A substantial number of people with records in Delaware have records for non-convictions only, which means after their arrest, the person was either never charged or never convicted of a crime in that case — but they’re still saddled with the consequences of a record. A Delaware non-conviction record, just like a conviction record, remains publicly available and will appear on background checks unless it is expunged. 

All cases that do not include a conviction should be eligible for the automated expungement process, including Delawareans serving a period of incarceration, probation, or parole. Currently, no one on probation or parole is eligible for any form of expungement, including for separate cases that did not result in a conviction. People should never be punished for cases decided in their favor, and records that never led to a conviction shouldn’t hinder anyone’s livelihood. 

Over the course of the day, 45 advocates met with over 20 legislators seeking their commitment to support and act on these priorities. In addition to being prepped with pre-lobby training and talking point resources, many of the directly impacted advocates had received prior storytelling training. This enabled them to effectively communicate their experiences in the most impactful way possible when speaking to legislators.

The lobby day was received well by legislators across both parties, energizing advocates and lawmakers to work together toward a successful Clean Slate implementation in 2024. 

Clean Slate efforts don’t end at the passage of the initial legislation, and that’s why this lobbying event was so important. The campaign and community must continue to engage legislators to navigate the complicated implementation process and ensure the law has its intended impact. Records are a substantial barrier to many life-sustaining goals, like finding a place to live and a good job. We must work together to ensure that Clean Slate’s implementation is as smooth as possible for the Delawareans who need that relief — and paves a path for other states to successfully implement their own Clean Slate policies.

Second Chance Stories: Using Storytelling to Transform the Justice System

Ahead of Second Chances Month, Clean Slate Delaware hosted a two-part storytelling training to elevate the stories of impacted voices during the upcoming CSDE Lobby Day on Tuesday, April 4th at Legislative Hall in Dover.

Currently, up to 400,000 people who have a record in Delaware live with limited access to jobs, housing, education, starting a business, or participating fully in social and civic community life. Behind every single one of those 400,000 records is a story. 

Last month, I was invited to participate in a Clean Slate Delaware (CSDE) Campaign storytelling training. This two-part series aimed to help impacted individuals like myself gain the tools to effectively share our first-hand experiences living with a record, and use those experiences to impact positive policy change that offers true second chances for Delawareans. 

Unfortunately, living with a record means many impacted individuals don’t always have the time or transportation to attend valuable events such as this. However, CSDE Campaign partners worked hard to ensure participants schedules were accommodated, and virtual attendance options were available for those unable to be physically present. It was encouraging to see several men that I had served time with be able to attend and participate. Being in a room of individuals with shared experiences provides connection and comfort that can be difficult for so many to find during the reentry process. 

Throughout the training, we dived into the power of storytelling, and how our stories can have real and persuasive influence on audiences- particularly, elected officials. The facilitators were very engaging, constantly encouraging interaction and feedback between participants and CSDE Campaign leaders. Seeing storytelling strategies modeled not only helped enhance our understanding, but allowed us to really feel the increased impact and connection that comes with telling stories for rather than to an audience. 

At the end of the training, we were given the opportunity to share our personal stories in small groups and receive feedback from our fellow participants. I could already begin to feel the difference in my storytelling skills as I spoke with greater confidence, intention, and awareness of my story’s purpose. I made conscious efforts to incorporate strategies like creating detailed visual imagery for my audience. It felt liberating to not only tell my own story, but to know that I was lending a listening ear that allowed others to have a similar experience.

As Second Chances Month nears, I am eager to use my new storytelling skills to engage legislators during the Clean Slate Delaware Lobby Day on April 4. Our stories prove the critical need for elected officials to support reforms that will expand expungement eligibility and accessibility.  If you are passionate about joining the fight for second chances for Delawareans like myself, I encourage you to attend. 

Everyone deserves a second chance.

For questions, please contact Clean Slate Delaware Manager, John Reynolds, at

The trauma of Black Americans

Another reign of terror toward innocent people happened on May 14, 2022, in America. Unfortunately, incidents like these show up more and more on my news feed. Ten people were killed and three wounded while going to the grocery store in Buffalo, New York. (The grocery store is now added to the places that are unsafe for Black and brown people.) The only common denominator of the victims is the color of their skin. A white supremacist intentionally went into a predominantly black community—hundreds of miles from his home — to do what has been done countless times in this country. 

Acts like this play a large factor in the trauma Black Americans live with on a daily basis. Let’s step back for a second and think about the ramifications of seeing Black lives taken and shared online. 

Psychological Trauma

To witness domestic terrorism — in everyday places — and then be expected to go on as if nothing happened causes psychological trauma. It is a shared trauma among members of Black and brown communities who feel gaslit when they return to work and their coworkers don’t acknowledge their pain. When they turn on the television or scroll social media and see select politicians, journalists, and their neighbors defend those who espouse racist “replacement theories” as being somehow not racist. 


Historically, gaslighting is a major component of covert racism. Gaslighting undermines a person’s judgment, perception, or memory. Racial gaslighting makes the victim question their judgment on issues of racism. This psychologically abusive behavior is at work again with the murderer Payton Gerdon pleading not guilty due to mental illness. Select journalists and politicians alike are co-signing that it was indeed a mental illness. Despite his own racist manifesto and ideological beliefs, the Black community is gaslit once again.


Scars heal, but they also leave a mark as a reminder of the pain. Unfortunately, Black people haven’t had the chance of collective healing. Instead, America keeps picking the scab and festering the wound. Recently, Greg Foster, a prison guard at Attica Correctional Facility posted on FaceBook a picture of Tops grocery store that read “ Clean up on aisle 3, no wait 4, also on 7, 9, 12, and 13”. Microaggressions such as this don’t stop, and everyday Black people have to try and navigate in a world where their bodies are expendable. There’s no healing living under these circumstances.

So what is the path to healing?  Do something. Ask yourself, “What am I doing to end racism?”. And then get to work.  Be an ally. We often think allyship is only protesting. It is more than that. Vote. Hold your local legislators accountable. Check on your Black and brown friends. Speak up when you see microaggressions. Don’t stand idly by as racism and Black trauma continues to manifest.

Mercedes Watson, Author