For months, advocates have been urging lawmakers to take action on a bill known as the Clean State Act that would expunge criminal records.
A deal was struck this week on the legislation that would eventually seal most criminal records.
“It will be an automatic sealing bill, iIt will not be expungement,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz. “But what that means is that when folks go apply for a home to live in an apartment, have an opportunity to work, they will really have the ability to have a clean slate. Because they’ve already paid their debt to society and we want them to be able to restart their lives.”
Under the legislation, records would be sealed after three years for misdemeanors, and seven years for a felony. Those on a sex offender registry would not be eligible.
Both houses also reached agreement on a bill to reduce the types of violations that can automatically send someone on parole back to prison. The legislation is known as the Less is More Act.
“When someone is out on parole, the parole officer should really be more like rehabilitation specialist, really someone to help assist in their life forward, help them reintegrate into society,” said Democratic State Senator Brian Benjamin. “Unfortunately, what we see too much of, it’s almost like an obstacle course that you have to game perfectly in order to prevent yourself from being re-incarcerated. It’s not what this should be about.”
Bills to make it easier for those who are incarcerated to receive an early release appear to have fallen off the table, but can be considered next year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not involved in the negotiations over the parole bills, but he doesn’t seem to oppose them either.
“I think it’s fair to say my priorities were done in the budget,” Cuomo said. “I think the majority of the Senate and the Assembly’s priorities were done in the budget. So there are a few bills that are being considered. For me, the main thing to get done are the appointments.”
The State Senate has begun confirming Cuomo’s nominees to the Court of Appeals and other boards. The legislative session wraps up on Thursday, which is when the two parole bills are expected to be voted on. If Cuomo were to veto them, the legislature now has the votes to override him.