New York State lawmakers passed budget legislation for fiscal year 2024, and it now awaits the governor’s signature. The legislation would partially roll back the state’s bail reform law, expanding judges’ authority to set money bail. It also omits the Clean Slate Act, which would have automatically sealed, after several years, the criminal records of many of the more than 2.3 million New Yorkers with conviction histories.
Ames Grawert, senior counsel in the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following comment:
“We are disappointed that lawmakers failed to include the Clean Slate Act in this year’s budget. We strongly urge them to pass it in the post-budget session. Brennan Center research conclusively demonstrates that having a criminal record contributes to financial hardship for New Yorkers and their families, and depresses the economy at the community and state levels. By automatically sealing these records after several years, the Clean Slate Act would help break the link between poverty and mass incarceration, reduce racial disparities in the state’s workforce, and improve public safety.
“We are also disappointed by the legislature’s continued focus on revising bail reform, to the exclusion of other policies that can make our communities safer. Research shows that when it comes to the effect of bail reform on crime, rhetoric continues to far outstrip reality.”
More than 2.3 million New Yorkers face barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities because they have a criminal record. The burden falls heaviest on New York’s communities of color. Under the Clean Slate Act, most people’s misdemeanor records would be sealed after three years of being out of prison and conviction free, and most felony records after seven years.
In 2019, New York State adopted a law ending the use of cash bail in most cases involving misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Some politicians have blamed it for recent increases in crime in the state, although these increases mirror trends nationwide. The best available research shows that bail reform has not driven recent increases in crime.
Brennan Center Resources
- “Why New York’s Clean Slate Act Is Essential for Economic Justice” (September 16, 2022)
- “Myths and Realities: Understanding Recent Trends in Violent Crime” (July 12, 2022)
- “The Clean Slate Act Can Build a More Prosperous New York” (January 14, 2022)
- “Poverty and Mass Incarceration in New York: An Agenda for Change” (February 23, 2021)