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Supporters expect NY's Clean Slate Act to pass

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Conviction records follow people around long after they are released from prison, keeping people from finding work and housing.

New York's Clean Slate Act would seal most people’s conviction records. The bill is included in Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget.

"The governor's inclusion of Clean Slate in 2022 executive budget is a testament to the advocacy and the work we put in, of directly impacted individuals and the broad coalition of supporters who have fought tirelessly, tirelessly, tirelessly, for this vital relief," Marvin Mayfield with Center for Community Alternatives said at a virtual press conference Tuesday.

Under the Clean Slate Act, people with misdemeanors would be eligible to have their records sealed after three years. People with felonies could have their records sealed after seven years. This does not extend to people permanently on sex offender lists. Conviction records would still be accessible by law enforcement, courts, and licensing agencies.

The Perpetual Punishment of Poverty

A formerly incarcerated person will lose an estimated $500 dollars annually, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

"This exacerbates the racial wealth gap," said Mayfield. Black and Latinx people are disproportionately represented in prison populations.

Mayfield said it does not just hurt the individual but their families, communities, and the state as a whole.

"New York collectively loses 2 billion in wages annually, because formerly incarcerated individuals are shut out from entering the workforce, which hurts economic growth and shrinks tax revenue."

Because poverty is a major contributor to recidivism, another outcome of Clean Slate could be reduced crime.

Your Debt is Paid

Many speakers said this is a human rights bill.

"The Clean Slate bill not only addresses the issues of poverty, not only addresses the issues of fairness, not only addresses the issues of social justice, but it addresses the issue of morality and ethics. It is an ethical thing to do," said Dr. Divine Pryor, Co-Chair of New York State NAACP criminal justice committee.

Pryor said we should not punish people for the rest of their lives.

"Simply because once you paid your debt, then your debt is paid."

The group called for the Legislature to pass the Clean Slate Act as it is in the proposed budget. Pryor said it should have been passed 30 years ago, but expects the bill will finally be passed in the 2022 budget.

"Until it is, we have to continue to push, we have to continue to campaign, we have to continue to advocate," Pryor said. "And even after it's passed, let's face it, we still have to watch over to make sure that it is implemented fairly and equitably across the board."

Supporters also rallied virtually and commented in a live chat while Mayfield, Pryor and other people spoke. Many wrote "Clean Slate Can't Wait."

State Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-20) and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-39) introduced the Clean Slate bill. The budget is due March 31.