Sources: NY Bill to Seal Criminal Histories of Convicts Likely to Pass

By Matis Glenn

NEW YORK – A New York State bill aimed at sealing records of convicted criminals might be passed this week, as the legislative session draws to a close, sources told FOX5.

Supporters of the bill, called the “Clean Slate Act,” say that the bill would open up opportunities for millions of New Yorkers who have been in jail, to get better jobs, housing, and education.

“There are 2.3 million New Yorkers with old conviction records,” Katie Schaffer, with Community Alternatives, an advocacy group, told FOX. “Those roadblocks between people who have served their time and real opportunities to get back on their feet is partially what contributes to recidivism rates. So I would say this truly is a public safety bill as well as a justice bill.”

Sources indicate that a tentative deal has been reached among lawmakers, despite Gov. Kathy Hochul saying that this is not true, and that she has not completed her review of the bill.

Under the bill, which was amended this week, records of misdemeanors would be sealed after three years and most felonies after eight, with some conditions. The convict must be off of parole or probation, and cannot have been arrested or charged again with a different crime. Some Class A felonies, certain assaults, and murder, do not qualify for the seal. An additional caveat would prevent convicts with sealed records from applying for jobs with law enforcement, or to work in schools and other jobs involving vulnerable people.

The law also would allow convicts to sue people who disclose their history to potential employers, landlords, and others.

The District Attorney’s Association of New York is opposed to parts of the bill; they say that such a move strips power from judges.

“Here we go again leaving judges out of the process to say, what role should the person with the conviction – shouldn’t they have to make some showing that I’ve made an effort to improve my life?” Jordan told FOX.

Jordan agrees that some crimes should be sealed, and pointed to a 2017 law which allows people to apply for that status for certain crimes.

But automatically sealing felonies, Jordan says, is too broad.

“There is no cap on the number of felonies that you get to have sealed,” Jordan explained.

Many businesses, including JP Morgan Chase, support the bill, which includes a clause for employers to not be held liable for hiring convicts should they reoffend.

“Now I would ask, if we’re not concerned that something could happen, then why is there a need to remove liability,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt asked. “I think it’s highly problematic and I have no doubt it will cause more victims.”

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