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Criminal justice advocates cheer Hochul's endorsement of Clean Slate Act

Gov. Kathy Hochul, wearing white, giving her State of the State Address in legislative chambers.
Hans Pennink

Criminal justice reform advocates in New York are encouraged by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s endorsement of the Clean Slate Act in her recent State of the State address.

The goal of the act is to end discrimination of formerly incarcerated people who are looking for jobs, housing or to further their education.

Nan Gibson, executive director of the JP Morgan Chase Policy Center, said this legislation is especially important as businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Businesses are adapting to the economic conditions and resuming our search for skilled workers. By reducing the barriers to employment for justice involved individuals, we will be able to get more people back to work more quickly," Gibson said.

Henry Garrido is the executive director of DC 37, New York City’s largest municipal employee union.

“This is not just a movement that impacts a certain part of the population. It affects us all. It deals with the human rights conditions of people who are in poverty, who are kept under sub-par conditions — not because of the content of their character, but because they have a disqualifier,” Garrido said.

The Clean Slate Act would automatically seal most conviction records. Less than 1% of people have taken advantage of an existing state law that allows record sealing on an application basis.

Advocates hope making the process automatic will ensure all eligible people are able to benefit.