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Clean Slate Act in New York Offers Fresh Start for Two Million with Prior Convictions

17 Nov 2023, Jail News, Recidivism, by brian

Governor Kathy Hochul signed the historic Clean Slate Act in New York, extending fresh opportunities to people with prior convictions.

Clean Slate Act in New York Offers Fresh Start for Two Million with Prior Convictions - Inmate Lookup

The Clean Slate Act, recently signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul in New York, offers a potential fresh start for nearly two million individuals with prior convictions in the state.

According to the Associated Press, this transformative legislation applies to those who have completed their sentences and maintained a clean record for a designated period—three years for misdemeanors or eight years for specific felonies, excluding sex crimes and most Class A felonies like murder.

Following in the footsteps of other states, including Connecticut, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, the Clean Slate Act aims to disrupt the cycle of recidivism by granting formerly incarcerated individuals access to employment and housing opportunities. According to the report, while the law is scheduled to take effect in a year, an additional three-year timeline is outlined to seal the record.

According to a Data Collaborative for Justice study at John Jay College, approximately 2.2 million people in New York carry criminal convictions. The bill signing has received commendation from business groups, including large corporations from different industries, anticipating an expanded labor pool that will enhance the state’s economic competitiveness amidst a national labor shortage.

Existing state laws allow employers to inquire about conviction records during the hiring process. Advocates for the legislation emphasize that individuals with criminal records still face substantial barriers to securing stable employment. The bill passed through state lawmakers last June on a party-line vote and encountered opposition from some Republican lawmakers who pointed to an existing sealing statute for criminal convictions.

However, a study conducted by Santa Clara University revealed that less than 1% of eligible New Yorkers successfully sealed their records through this statute.

During the bill signing ceremony at the Brooklyn Museum, Governor Hochul stressed that those with criminal records have fulfilled their societal obligations, completing their sentences and processes. Yet, obstacles to housing and employment persist upon their reentry into society, prompting the enactment of the Clean Slate Act to rectify this injustice.