Criminal justice reform advocates are hoping a bill known as “clean slate” will pass before the legislative session ends on June 10. It would seal, and eventually expunge criminal records.
What You Need To Know
- Several criminal justice reform bills are now before the legislature
- Democrats who control both houses have already enacted a number of reforms, but critics say this new crop of bills go too far
- Time is running out. The 2021 Albany legislative session ends June 10
“Two point three million New Yorkers have a conviction record," State. Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who represents Brooklyn. "And after serving your time and after being crime free, you shouldn’t have that conviction record travel with you to every housing application and every opportunity or every job application.”
Since Democrats took full control over both houses of the legislature in 2019, they have passed a number of reforms, including strictly limiting the use of solitary confinement for prison inmates, comprehensive bail reform and the elimination of most criminal penalties for marijuana.
But critics say these new bills go too far.
“The problem I see now going into the last two weeks is that there are a couple of pieces of legislation, particularly the Elder Parole and the Fair and Timely Parole Act, that deal with more serious criminals," said John Flynn, the Erie County district attorney
The Elder Parole bill, part of larger push for parole reform, would make any prison inmate eligible for parole at age 55, regardless of the crime, and assuming they have already served 15 years or more.
“I think there really needs to be a lot more discussion on that," said Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the chairman of the codes committee, where the Elder Parole bill, and other reforms, would have to pass before heading to the floor for a full house vote. "First of all, the Elder Parole bill is not even before the codes committee at the moment. It’s before another committee. Some people think that calling a 55-year-old elderly, well they are not exactly an elder, let’s put it that way.”
Another bill, known as the Fair and Timely Parole Act, would consider an inmate’s behavior in prison first, then the societal impact of their crime, before determining parole eligibility. That is the opposite of how it’s done now. District Attorneys are opposed.
“A lot can happen between now and the end of session," said Dinowitz. "But on the other hand, some of these bills are very important and are major changes to the law. They require a lot of thought, a lot of input. We want to make sure that all the stakeholders weigh in on it, and that has not necessarily happened yet with all these bills.”
Another bill, introduced by the state attorney general, would restrict police use of deadly force. Insiders say it's unlikely to pass before the end of the session.