The era of perpetual punishment must end: New York needs an expungement law NOW.
The past several years have seen some promising steps toward criminal justice reform in New York, from major drops in the incarceration rate to the passage of Raise the Age legislation that will divert most 16 and 17 year olds from prosecution in criminal court.
Even with this progress, however, New York lags behind many other states because we have no expungement law. Expungement is the removal of criminal conviction information from official government records after a specified amount of time has passed since the conviction. Because our state does not allow expungement of any type of conviction, New Yorkers with criminal records often face lifelong barriers to employment, education, housing, and civic involvement, no matter how much they have done to create positive change in their lives. These barriers don’t just harm people with convictions and their families; they also reduce the state’s workforce, keeping the entire New York economy from reaching its full potential.
Our statewide coalition is working to end the era of perpetual punishment by passing an expungement law that will benefit all New Yorkers. The legislation we are fighting for would:
- Make expungement relief available to as many people as possible, including those with multiple convictions and those with “violent” convictions;
- Make the passage of a specified amount of time since a person’s most recent conviction the only eligibility requirement;
- Make applying for expungement an administrative process, where expungement is automatically granted as long as the eligibility requirements are met; and
- Allow people to apply using a simple, standardized, and widely distributed form, with no supplemental records or sworn statements required.
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