It is urgent to approve the “Clean Slate” law in NY to end the stigma suffered by inmates after serving their sentences

There are only a few weeks left until the New York State Legislature start work, and with a series of simultaneous demonstrations, this Thursday hundreds of voices joined in various corners to implore the Assembly and Senate in Albany approve the call “Borrón y cuenta nueva” law, that after a while he would delete the criminal record to inmates that they regain their freedom. The number of New Yorkers with a criminal record who would benefit is estimated to be 2.3 million; in 2020 alone, they finished pay their sentences a total of 18,000.

The measure would make it easier for inmates who have purged their sorrows satisfactorily and that they are not under community supervision and have not incurred new charges or convictions, have the benefit of “erasing” their judicial past within the penal system, which would facilitate their reintegration into society, leaving behind the stigma of having stepped on a jail.

During a sit-in on the steps of the Mayor’s Office of New York City, and Albany, Westchester, Hudson, Rochester, and Syracuse, advocates, former inmates, and activists urged Albany not to leave behind, this time, the initiative “Blot and a new account”.

The piece of law seeks that criminal records are automatically removed after three years for former inmates who have been convicted of misdemeanors, and seven years for those who faced felony sentences.

With banners and testimonies, the protesters stressed that after regaining their freedom, currently hundreds of thousands of New York ex-convicts who have already served their sentences in the judicial system continue to struggle to resume their lives, find jobs and housing.

So he mentioned it David Delancey, from exodus organizationwho narrated how ex-inmates like him, who spent more than 20 years behind bars, after trying to resume their lives, face a wall of difficulties and obstacles that put them in “new bars”.

“If they don’t approve the Clean Slate law, people like me won’t be able to get a second chance.. When I got out of jail, I submitted 45 applications trying to find housing to be with my wife and children. The rejection I felt on a daily basis made me cry every day. with my family. The only thing he wanted was to be beneficial to this society, ”commented the man with a criminal record. “Let us work, give us a second chance instead of putting us in the hell of permanent punishment”.

Joel Riverawho finished his sentence in 2019, stressed that for Latino people who do not have studies, burdened with criminal records, denies them any opportunity to rebuild their lives.

People like me, who don’t know how to write, see everything more difficult, because they don’t focus on us. I learned to read a little with programs like the ones offered by Exodus and Cases, which are good, but having been in prison since 1994, the two years that I have free have been very difficult to have stability,” said the Latino ex-inmate. “There is work, but they are not durable. That’s why I hope to get my GED and get something better, and that’s why It is important that they erase the records we came from, because that way we can finally have the right to better things and a better life.. We just want better opportunities.”

Brooklyn State Senator Jabari Brisportwho supports the project, warned that it is urgent to approve the law as soon as possible, not only so that end the stigma against those New Yorkers who go through the judicial system, but also so that there is greater stability in the most vulnerable communities such as Latinos and blacks, who have 80% of all people with a criminal record in the city.

They ask to approve a law that erases criminal records for inmates who satisfactorily served their sentences

We are talking about more than 2 million people from Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Buffalo and other parts of the state, who need work and housing, who do not have basic resources. And that generates instability and does not provide security,” said the politician, who criticized those who oppose the “Borrón y cuenta nueva” initiative. “Long Island’s wealthy, because they have jobs, access to mental health, and housing, oppose, but I tell them that we all need and deserve to have the same as everyone, and that’s it. That’s why we need to pass this in January and not wait until June.”

Anthony Posadalawyer of the association Legal Aid Society, He stressed that although in 2018 the Legislature approved a project that allows former inmates to try to eliminate up to two criminal records, in practice very few people qualify, for which reason he urged the approval of a “Clean slate” that would benefit to all.

This legislation would dramatically change the lives of people who have had contact with the criminal systembecause what is currently happening is that they live under a permanent punishment that does not allow them access to better opportunities, better jobs, better ways of housing,” said the defender, adding that the Governor Kathy Hochul it must directly promote the initiative, which not only brings criminal but also economic benefits.

The Governor owes this law to the people who voted for it. It is time to do it because we have waited for many years and they always come close to the end point and do not pass the law. She has to fulfill the promises that she made to her during her campaign to be elected. In addition, this law is within the framework of economic justice, beyond the context of criminal justice. It is helping 2.3 million people who currently have a criminal record and cannot have better opportunities,” added Posada.

Within the clamor of the demonstrators, a call was also made to Albany to access to well-paying jobs and safe housing is expandedsince the majority of those who leave prison remain trapped in poverty, as evidenced by a study by the Brennan Center. The most recent report from him showed that serving time in prison can cut a person’s annual income in half.
In addition to the benefit that the legislation would have on the millions of former inmates who have passed through New York prisons and the judicial system, the promoters of the piece of law insist that it would be a positive boost for the state’s economy.

It is estimated that the law would generate more than $7.1 billion in income for people with criminal records who would more easily enter the workforce, while helping to expand jobs statewide. It would also help businesses hire more employees, make communities safer, and fight racial inequalities in the criminal legal system and society.

Although expunged convictions would not show up on most background checks for employment or housing, they will still be accessible to authorities.

“A clean slate is extremely important for millions of people who, years or decades after serving their sentences, continue to face obstacles in accessing jobs and housing that make it difficult for them and their families to support themselves,” he said. Kate Schaffer, director of advocacy and organizing for the Brooklyn Center for Community Alternatives.

Anthony Posada, Legal Aid Society attorney

The call to approve the law has been joined by business entities such as the Fortune 500 (JP Morgan Chase, Verizon and Microsoft), the New York State Business Council, the Chambers of Commerce and the Business Council of New York State, which represents 3,500 companies , and local legislatures in cities like New York, Westchester, Buffalo, and Albany, which have passed resolutions calling on Albany to green light a “clean slate.” The bill also has the support of unions representing more than 2 million workers.

Until now Governor Hochul Neither the leaders of the upper and lower houses in Albany have referred to the initiative, whose analysis will fall on the next Legislature, which will take office next January.

So far, states such as Utah, Connecticut, California and Michigan have passed similar laws, and counting the days until the 2023 legislative session begins, the coalition that advocates for New York to join that movement, is promoting the campaign ” Take action” to put pressure on legislators and Governor Hochul, through phone calls to their offices.

Data on New Yorkers with a Criminal History

  • 2.3 million New Yorkers with criminal records would benefit from the law
  • 80% of people in New York City with a criminal record are African American or Latino
  • 18,000 inmates finished paying their sentences in 2020 and regained their freedom
  • 500,000 people in the United States were released from prison in 2020
  • 2.3 million former inmates could get jobs more easily thanks to the law
  • $7.100 million and more is estimated to generate an annual increase in income for these former inmates
  • $87 billion annually in lost GDP nationally drives people with criminal records out of the workforce
  • 11% of ex-inmates who have their criminal records expunged in states where it is already the law are initially more likely to have a job and earn 25% more
  • 3 years after serving their convictions for minor crimes, the records would be expunged
  • 7 years later would be the period to expunge records of those who faced felony sentences
  • The main barriers faced by those serving their sentences are problems accessing housing, education and employment
  • Utah, Connecticut, California and Michigan have already passed similar laws
  • Texas, Missouri and West Virginia are considering “Clean Slate” projects as well

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