This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

The Clean Slate Act poised to pass would just create more advantages for criminals

As the state’s legislative session winds down, the push for a Clean Slate Act has resurfaced, with leaders of both chambers saying Wednesday they’re close to a deal and confident it will pass.

That push, however, lacks a realistic examination of the law, its flaws and its impact on public safety and an understanding of the massive undertaking sealing volumes of criminal records would require.

It is good public policy to offer second chances to deserving individuals who have completed their sentences and been rehabilitated, to enable them to pursue employment, housing and education without the burden of past convictions.

New York’s prosecutors supported the most recent sealing statute, enacted in 2017, and initiatives exist in many counties to assist those seeking to seal convictions.

District attorneys’ offices provide information on their websites on how to navigate the process, and some offices hold workshops to educate the public about the process.

The Legal Aid Society, bar associations and others also help in sealing convictions.

New York police officers provide security outside the Manhattan District Attorney's office in New York City on April 3, 2023.
AFP via Getty Images

Now lawmakers propose to expand the range of sealable convictions, automating the process without adequate consideration of logistics, risks, limitations or public-safety effects.

To their credit, the sponsors have amended the bill, addressing some concerns prosecutors raised. Access to sealed records would be granted to law enforcement, specific state agencies and employers required to conduct fingerprint checks.

The sponsors understood it would run counter to public safety to allow probationers and parolees in New York to have their records sealed.

But the bill doesn’t consider out-of-state offenses or federal charges.

Someone could have numerous pending offenses or even be on parole in New Jersey, Connecticut or any other state and still have offenses automatically sealed in New York.

Unfortunately, there are logistical and technical obstacles that prevent different jurisdictions from fully communicating information about criminal records.

There is no mechanism allowing criminal records from other states to easily flow to New York before a defendant’s criminal record would be sealed.

It is too easy to hop on a train or drive across state lines and commit a crime.

Do we really want to create more advantages for criminals?

Open handcuffs and a judge gavel on the table, concept on the topic of release by court order.

Before overhauling our current sealing statute, we must address the logistical challenges associated with sharing criminal records among various jurisdictions, courts and law enforcement.

The scope of sealing under the legislation, furthermore, is too broad.

The bill would bar potential employers and landlords from asking questions about prior convictions, including convictions related to the employer’s business, and allow those with convictions to respond as if the arrest did not occur, essentially making it OK to lie to a future employer or landlord about past behavior.

And except for sex offenses, all crimes will be automatically sealed — and it will be illegal for citizens to even ask about the convicted murderer, kidnapper or robber living in their midst.

New York’s current already-generous sealing law allows for the sealing of many felony and misdemeanor convictions, under judicial oversight.

Proponents of Clean Slate, however, argue that few defendants take advantage of that law, due to the inconvenience of filing paperwork in court, and propose automated sealing under the bill.

But mistakes are unavoidable in any automated process. Inevitably, cases that should be sealed would be missed and ineligible cases would be sealed.

Automatic sealing overlooks the limitations of existing infrastructure and automated systems’ lack of human oversight.

Those mistakes can have a direct effect on public safety.

Instead, to benefit those individuals who deserve sealing, our lawmakers should encourage expanded use of the state’s current sealing statute, including investing money for legal services for people to be able to complete the process of sealing past convictions.

New York police officers provide security outside the Manhattan District Attorney's office in New York on April 3, 2023.
AFP via Getty Images

Other states that have implemented clean-slate laws have dedicated considerable resources to addressing the complexities of sealing criminal records and minimizing errors.

Some of those states are still facing challenges.

Michigan’s Clean Slate Act passed in 2020, for example, but required more than two years of effort and significant funding to create software and train staff, who are still working overtime tackling the glitches.

Michigan’s system must be reevaluated monthly to find new convictions that might be eligible for sealing.

More thought and planning need to go into any clean-slate law in our state.

Morgan Bitton is executive director of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. Robert Conflitti is its counsel.