Years of lobbying have led to this point for criminal justice advocates: A bill will be heading to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk that would automatically seal an estimated 2.3 million criminal records.
Supporters are turning their attention to the implementation of the pending law as well as alerting people who will be affected that their criminal record will be sealed without any action on their part. But opponents, including the statewide district attorneys association in New York, are continuing to raise public safety concerns with the measure while urging the governor to veto it.
Known as the Clean Slate Act among supporters, the measure does not include the sealing of class A felonies like murder and sex crimes. If approved, the measure would seal a person’s felony records eight years after incarceration ends; three years for a misdemeanor.
Advocates like Katie Schaffer of the Center for Community Alternatives want Hochul to act quickly once the bill is sent to her by the Legislature.
"This is urgent legislation and there’s no reason to let it linger until the end of the calendar year," Schaffer said.
Focus will also also be turning to promoting the bill by advocates for people who have had criminal convictions on their records.
"There’s important work to do to make sure people know this relief is coming, exactly what it means and for us to ensure that it is accessible information around the state," Schaffer said.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, meanwhile, has urged Hochul to break out her veto pen. Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan says the bill raises too many public safety and fairness questions.
"Having them all sealed without showing any effort at community restoration, rehabilitation, the important parts about what our system is all about," said Jordan, the group's president.
Jordan points to the measure already on the books from 2017 that allows records sealing based on a judge’s discretion.
"We have a law, if the law is too cumbersome, why do away with it entirely?" he said. "Why not work to improve it?"
Hochul has not said publicly if she’ll sign the bill, but said this week the final version may have satisfied the concerns she’s previously raised.
"I won’t be saying at this moment," she said this week, "but we worked very closely to balance the needs of these individuals to literally have another shot in life."