When Katie McGinty stopped at the Front Street Diner in Harrisburg on Wednesday, people gathered to meet her brought up a topic that hasn't gotten much attention at debates or in ads.
They talked about how long-ago criminal convictions can hinder people's efforts to become productive members of society because of problems finding work and housing.
Marsha Banks, who runs a non-profit organization in Harrisburg that serves former prisoners, mentioned her own conviction 20 years ago and spoke of the expungement legislation sponsored by state Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, a McGinty supporter who co-hosted the diner event.
McGinty sounded sympathetic: "People aren't getting a sentence -- they're really getting a life sentence, because they can't get out."
In an interview after the event, the Rendell-era DEP secretary said the state should invest in education and job-training programs, but that it also should adopt policies designed to give second chances to people with criminal offenses in their pasts.
"I have seen story after story of a vicious circle of young people who come out, having made a minor mistake, not able to get a job, not able to get housing and therefore turning right back to a life of crime, not as their first choice but as their only resort," she said.