After New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s creation of a council to recommend measures to improve the state’s criminal justice system, local advocates and stakeholders call the move a political stunt that will bring no real reform. Hochul announced the creation of the state Council on Community Justice, which her office described as an advisory group of state and local stakeholders that will “recommend measures to further improve the effectiveness and fairness of the state’s criminal justice system.” The council met for the first time in New York City and is expected to meet on a quarterly basis. The council is led by Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, reports the Gloversville Leader Herald.
Reform advocates say the council fails to include on-the-ground advocates throughout the state. Gloversville community activist LaShawn Hawkins, founder of the organization “I can Breathe and I will Speak,” wants d state officials to involve more rural areas in police reform discussions. "They don’t even know half the stuff that goes on in some of these areas, and I know this for a fact only from recently getting involved with a little bit of politics that I dabbled in,” said Hawkins. Activists in the Albany region have been critical of local police departments amid increased national scrutiny of policing of black and brown communities. Some activists have criticized police for over-policing minority communities and allege they have reacted to harshly to protests. At the end of this year’s legislative session, Hochul clashed with legislative leaders over the passage of Clean Slate, which would seal many criminal records from the public after a certain number of years if the defendant has not been charged with new crimes and has paid a debt to society. The compromise bill would seal records for felonies after eight years and after three years for misdemeanors. The bill would not apply to sex offenses, murder convictions and other serious felonies. Hochul has yet to sign or veto it.