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Clean Slate Bill (S211 / A1029)

03/02/2023 1:27 PM | Anonymous

Clean Slate Bill  (S211 / A1029)  by Tom Reynolds

State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz are sponsoring a bill that would seal the criminal records of many people convicted of certain felonies or misdemeanors: three years after the imposed sentencing for misdemeanor crimes and seven years for felonies.

It was first introduced in 2020, it has never passed both chambers.

Concessions to help pass the bill:

  • the bill won’t include sex offenders, and
  • the criminal can’t commit additional crimes, and  
  • certain entities, such as some levels of law enforcement and the state Department of Education will have access to a person's sealed criminal records. Records would remain sealed from private employers. 

Last year, Kathy Hochul explicitly mentioned the bill in her State of the State address. (Of course, she never met a leftist proposal that was too extreme.) 

Hochul did not mention Clean Slate in this year’s State of the State address.  (A concession to the visuals of crime running amok in NY State and the Left being soft-on-crime?)

Last year the state Senate passed the bill, but in the Assembly, it never made it out of the Codes Committee – the committee responsible for reviewing all legislation focused on the state’s criminal justice system.

Chair of the Codes Committee, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who is also a co-sponsor of Clean Slate, said that “The devil is in the details in terms of which crimes are included and the timetables that are involved.”

After Democrats lost a few Assembly seats in the last election, the Republican conference gained a seat on the Codes Committee.  Last year, the committee was made up of 16 Democrats and six Republicans. This year, there are 15 and seven respectively.  Will that have some small impact? 

Supporters say the bill will allow people who have served their time to be better able to access job and housing opportunities.  The bill’s sponsor Cruz, a Democrat from Queens said: “If you're concerned with public safety, the way to keep the community safe is to get people back to work…Statistics show recidivism is completely tied to someone's ability to sustain their family to actually earn a living."  (She better reexamine those statistics.  I doubt if absentee fathers who commit crimes do so to support their families.)

 Cruz expressed optimism that support for the bill will increase this year. “We had significant support last year, that will only increase once we finalize amendments to the bill.

When asked whether allowing certain entities to unseal records would compromise the integrity of the legislation, Cruz said the sponsors of the bill are actively working with the Department of Education, business and law enforcement to ensure the bill supports economic development and communities.  (So, it’s important that some government people have access to these records but not you and I, who will be the ones most likely threatened by ex-convicts.)

Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay said he believes in second chances, but he also echoed our concerns about the need for thorough background checks. “There are any number of occupations where a background check is important: in personal care settings, positions around children, jobs that handle finances. People have the right to make informed decisions,”

Remember the debate over who’s job was “essential” during the Covid close down?  Now it’s who is essential enough to get access to these records.  I’ll bet ordinary citizens won’t qualify as essential.

Former Democratic Assembly Member Tom Abinanti, wrote a memo about the language of the bill. “Our society depends on having background checks, in sensitive positions…We have to carefully go through that bill and make sure that everywhere there’s common agreement that background checks should be conducted, they're going to be allowed and not prohibited.”

As usual, the Left is deeply concerned about criminals.  Those that obey the law…not so much.

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