Just hours after the Eagles beat the Washington Redskins, 34-24, in 2017, Jenkins and his teammates at the time, Chris Long and Torrey Smith, were sitting in front of lawmakers on Pennsylvania’s Capitol Hill.
It was a Tuesday. They were just on Monday Night Football, and likely most players in the league would have been looking forward to an off day. Not them. As they went up the capital steps with briefcases in hand, they had one goal in mind: make sure the Clean Slate Act bill would pass.
“When we show up, we have cameras, we can give meetings, and we can put a lot of public pressure on those who are on the fence or who are ultimately responsible for giving it a yes or no," Jenkins said. Jenkins added that when they show up, the needle moves along a little bit faster.
When Jenkins arrived on the Capitol doorstep, the bill had passed in the Senate but still had some lawmakers on the fence in the House.
“We’ve got a ton of people who’ve expressed to us that us showing up means a lot,” Jenkins said.
A year and a half to the date of their trip, the bill was passed, and about 2 1/2 years afterward, it went into effect. June 28, 2019 was the first day people with nonviolent misdemeanors and most simple assault convictions in Pennsylvania were eligible for an expunged record. Individuals who have served more than a year, have paid all of their financial obligations, and have been free of conviction for more than 10 years are allowed to petition to the courts for the electronic sealing of their record.
Automatic sealing of criminal history will be granted to those who had a second- or third-degree misdemeanor and have been free of conviction for more than 10 years. About 1 in 3 Americans has a criminal record, with more than half never getting a conviction. This law also allows records that didn’t lead to a conviction to automatically be sealed.
While Jenkins is happy the bill passed, he says that was just a first step. Jenkins, who has a personal tie to this bill, would like to see it spread to nonviolent felons. His younger brother, Martin Jenkins, was caught 10 years ago with a small amount of marijuana, which led to a felony conviction and years of not having a stable job. Jenkins has watched the toll it has taken on him and his family over the years.
“The inability to get housing or any assistance. All of these things follow you," Jenkins said. "And I know how hard it is for [Martin]. Luckily he has a support system between my parents and myself to where we’re making sure he doesn’t do anything that puts him back in a bad situation.”
Jenkins recognizes his brother’s situation is unique. Not everyone has the support system around him that his brother has. He says many people recommit crimes because they don’t have the opportunity to assimilate back into society. He says the Players Coalition will focus more of its efforts on that.