Lawmakers and advocates for proposed legislation that would seal the criminal record of those who have paid their debts to society demanded earlier this week that the legislature reconvene this summer to pass the measure.
State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) sponsored the bill dubbed the Clean Slate Act (S1553B), which would seal the criminal records of those who meet certain criteria.
These conditions include at least three years having passed from the imposition of sentence for misdemeanors and seven years for felonies, and that the defendant does not have a criminal charge pending in the state. The conviction cannot be for a sex offense, and the defendant must not currently be under the supervision of a parole or probation department.
Once sealed, the criminal record would not be made available to public or private entities, with exceptions made for criminal proceedings or investigations, as well as firearm background checks.
We have a moral imperative to pass Clean Slate – not later, not next year, but now,” said Myrie. “We cannot wait to get this done. There is a reason why all of us are assembled here fighting for Clean Slate and that is because we understand the power of rehabilitation, of redemption. This is about opportunity. This is about public safety. This is about housing. Clean Slate cannot wait. Let’s get it done.”
Also in on the virtual rally were State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), Wayne Harris – a spokesperson for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a Rabbi from a Midtown Manhattan synagogue, a representative from JP Morgan Chase, and the Political Director of New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA).
“How dumb it is to oppose a bill like this,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). “A little like, ‘Cut off your nose to spite your face’. This one shouldn’t be a source of controversy.”
Harris said the legislation would help reduce recidivism and reincarnation, as sealing records would make employment and housing easier to come by for those who go through the justice system. Harris said opposition is short sighted.
“[The] problem with the opponents of the clean slate legislation, [is it] only perpetuates what they say they don’t want in our communities,” Harris said.
Some of those formerly convicted of crimes spoke to their experience living with a criminal record. Michelle DelVecchio, 50, spent a decade in prison for multiple felonies, and made it a priority to keep a clean record and to give back when she was released. She’s found that her criminal record has made securing a job or housing nearly impossible.
“It saddens me that I have to be perpetually punished. I can afford to live in the best neighborhood. They make up the lamest excuse, ‘oh it’s about your credit,’” DelVecchio said of landlords who won’t rent to her. “Every time you fill out an application, and it has that dreaded question, have you ever been convicted of a crime? I know in my heart of hearts, as soon as I checked, yes… I’m not getting a phone call.”
Advocates for the bill say that in the final days of the legislative session, which ended last month, the Senate and Assembly reached a two-way agreement to pass the bill, but ended the session without taking a vote on it.
PoliticsNY inquiries to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ office on whether they would consider reconvening were not returned at post time.