Columbia County officials call on state Legislature to pass Clean Slate Act
Jeanette Wolfberg reports for The Columbia Paper officials in Columbia County issued a proclamation on November 1 stating, “members of the County Public Safety Committee by consensus… call on the New York State Legislature to pass the pending Clean Slate Act and the governor to subsequently sign it.” The act would seal the criminal records of convicted people three years after release from incarceration for a misdemeanor and seven years after completing incarceration for a felony if they have also completed probation and parole and have no subsequent convictions or pending charges. With a person’s criminal records sealed, they would be shielded from review by potential employers, housing agents, schools and license issuers. Law enforcement and courts would still have access to those records. At the October 19 Public Safety Committee meeting, Hudson First Ward Supervisor Claire Cousin introduced the proposal. “People who made a mistake and did time still find barriers. Clean Slate is an economic justice bill, not a public safety bill. When the bill passes, we start educating people, including employers,” Cousin said. Cousin is the executive director of the Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition, an organization working at the intersection of housing and criminal justice. She is also vice chair of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. “People will make a mistake in their life,” said Hudson Third Ward Supervisor Michael Chameides. “They need a chance to reintegrate into society.” The communities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie have issued proclamations supporting the Clean Slate Act. Austerlitz Town Supervisor Robert Lagonia said the consensus of the committee is to submit a proclamation. “My concern is the ‘automatic-ness’ of it,” he said. But he and Cousin had already had a “good discussion” about it. Cousin said other states have Clean Slate laws “even more progressive” than the one proposed for New York, and Pennsylvania, Michigan, Utah, and Connecticut, have already passed their versions of the legislation. Read more in The Columbia Paper.