ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — For years, advocates have been pushing for what some call a controversial bill: The Clean Slate Act. The bill would automatically seal criminal records three years after sentencing for misdemeanors and after seven years for felonies. It would not apply to sex crimes. Advocates say existing criminal records make it nearly impossible for those who were previously incarcerated to get a job or proper housing.
“Once you’ve atoned for these mistakes, you should be able to move forward and make yourself and your families whole,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey. Bailey said everyone deserves a second chance and passage of the bill will lead to lower recidivism rates, “You want to stop people from committing crimes, give them a job. You want to make sure you keep people off the street, give them a job.”
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said while the bill has good intentions, there are simply some crimes that should not be sealed from public records. “I think of someone who is applying for a bus driving job, if they have multiple DWIs in their history, I think the employer should have a right to know about those crimes,” he said. When I asked the Leader about people who serve their time and struggle to lead a normal life afterwards, he said there are always going to be consequences if a crime is committed, “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have compassion for someone who’s trying to get their life back together.”
Assemblymember Edward Gibbs is the first formerly incarcerated New York State Legislator. He said he served time in prison in the eighties, but once his sentence was complete, it was difficult finding a job. But eventually he did, “I worked for a law firm for about ten years, got myself together, educated and started doing wonderful things in my community and I am here today because of that.”
The bill was included in the Senate’s One House Budget. NEWS10 will keep you updated as to whether or not it’s included in the budget.