The Clean Act (S.7551A/A.1029C) takes effect one year from today. It gives the New York State Office of Court Administration up to three years from that date to implement the processes necessary to identify and seal all eligible records. The law would seal certain criminal records after a person’s release from incarceration: eligible misdemeanor convictions would be sealed for three years after release, and eligible felony convictions would be sealed for eight years after release—provided that the person convicted of a crime has not committed an additional crime during the intervening period.
The law also includes numerous components to protect public safety. Records will not be sealed to law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Records will not be sealed for individuals convicted of sex crimes, murder, domestic terror, and other Class A non-drug offenses, and will also not be sealed until parole or probation is complete and there are no criminal charges in New York State. The clock restarts completely if parole or probation is revoked or if there is a new conviction. Employers who are permitted by law to conduct fingerprint-based criminal background checks on job applicants will continue to receive these records and use them to determine whether individuals should be hired. Conviction information will remain available for law enforcement, police and peace officer recruitment, public and private school teacher recruitment, and background checks for firearm purchases and/or licenses.
New York will become the 12th state in the nation to sign Clean Slate legislation, joining states like Utah, South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania. A study by the Libertarians Cato Institute found that following the passage of Michigan’s expungement legislation, individuals with expunged records posed a lower risk of crime than the general state population; the same study found the reconviction rate for serious crimes to be less than 1 percent.
A criminal record can prevent an individual from fully participating in their communities after serving their sentence. This is especially true for people of color who have been disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. While New York State has the lowest incarceration rate among states with more than 10 million residents, racial disparities I persist. Studies show that without a Clean Slate, New York is missing out on $12.6 billion in annual economic activity – the total cost of lost wages each year due to the reduced earnings of individuals with unsealed records; nationally, the cost to GDP is approximately $87 billion each year.
New York State Department of Criminal Justice Commissioner Rossana Rosado said, “The CLEAN Act will help reduce recidivism by ensuring that people who have served their sentences have access to the educational, employment and housing opportunities that are essential ingredients for success. Helping people successfully transition back into their communities improves lives and public safety, and the CLEAN Act makes our criminal justice system fairer for everyone. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership, vision and support for reforms that work.”
Acting Commissioner Daniel F. Martucciello III of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said, “Removing barriers to re-entry and giving justice-involved people a second chance is critical to the rehabilitation process. The CLEAN Act will not only aid the Department’s efforts to reduce recidivism, but will bring hope to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers by providing greater access to jobs and housing. I applaud Governor Hochul for her leadership in implementing such impactful change while giving public safety the utmost priority. The Department has already begun working with our state partners to ensure that the Office of Court Administration has the necessary resources to implement this law as quickly as possible.
State Senator Zellnor Myri said, “It’s not every day that we can change our laws to strengthen our communities, make our legal system fairer, improve public safety and grow our economy all at the same time.” But that’s exactly what Clean Slate will do for New Yorkers. I am grateful to Governor Hochul for signing this transformative bill into law, to my partner Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, and to one of the largest, broadest and most diverse coalitions in state history who helped make this moment possible. To the millions of New Yorkers who will be affected by this law, I am proud to say that the wait is over.”
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz said, I am deeply moved by this incredible step in our journey toward justice, redemption, and economic development. This transformative law aims to offset the harmful effects of a criminal justice system designed to promote unfairness and injustice even after the debt to society has been repaid. Millions of New Yorkers are burdened by the crippling weight of their past convictions. By giving qualified individuals a clean slate, we unlock the doors to decent work, education and housing, fueling economic growth and stability for all New Yorkers. Ensuring that people can work and find housing is the best way to keep our communities safe, reduce recidivism, and break the cycle of poverty and mass incarceration for generations to come. I am proud of the strong and supportive coalition we have built, from labor unions, small and large businesses, to criminal justice and law enforcement activists, as well as religious and civic leaders. It’s a testament to our commitment to building a more inclusive and fair economy where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and thrive, regardless of their background. I would like to thank Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law, as well as Speaker Histie for never wavering in our collective vision. I also want to thank my colleague Senator Mairi and the Clean Slate Coalition for fighting every step of the way so that 2.3 million New Yorkers and their generations can get the second chance they so desperately need.