A bill that would seal many criminal records in New York state gained the backing of New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday and, for advocates in favor of the legislation hope, potentially some momentum.
Adams, who has staked out calls for changing New York's cashless bail laws and taking a tougher stand on public safety and crime, endorsed the bill, known as the Clean Slate Act, in his testimony to state lawmakers.
"We cannot allow a criminal conviction to define a person’s life," Adams told lawmakers. "The more opportunity we provide to those who have had contact with the criminal justice system, the safer we will all be.”
The measure, as proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul this year, would seal felony records after seven years and misdemeanor records after three years following the completion of a sentence.
A previous version of the bill stalled in the state legislature and was not given final passage.
Supporters have argued the measure would make it easier for people who have been convicted of a crime and completed their sentence to get a job or obtain housing.
"We thank Mayor Eric Adams for his support of the Clean Slate Act, which demonstrates the tremendous momentum for passing this urgent legislation," said the Clean Slate NY coalition, a collection of organizations backing the bill. "The mayor, along with the governor, lawmakers, the public and a diverse coalition of labor and business leaders, recognizes that the Clean Slate Act will strengthen communities, increase economic growth and enhance community safety. We have a moral imperative to act now, and we call on New York’s lawmakers to deliver real relief to New Yorkers and their families who have been trapped in a lifetime of perpetual punishment."
Still, it's not clear if lawmakers, especially Democrats running in potential swing districts this year, will want to take up further criminal justice law changes. The debate over the bail laws has become increasingly contentious with calls for changes that would allow a judge to determine if a person is too dangerous to not be remanded to a local jail.