New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act on Thursday, which could make around 2 million people convicted of crimes eligible to have their records sealed, the New York Times reports. Under the new law, people who complete their sentences and remain out of trouble for a set period — three years for misdemeanors, eight for eligible felonies — will have their convictions sealed. The most serious crimes will not be eligible for automatic sealing. New York will become one of a dozen states with such legislation, which is aimed at interrupting the cycle of recidivism by allowing formerly incarcerated people to access jobs and housing. The law will go into effect a year from now, though it will take three more years to clear the records of those currently waiting. Hochul said that she was proud to sign the legislation, which she said would provide economic opportunities while protecting public safety.
By the time the bill passed New York’s Legislature earlier this year, it boasted an impressive coalition of business, labor, government and advocacy groups who preached of its economic, moral and public safety benefits. The bill included an extended waiting period and liability protections for businesses that hire people who have criminal records. Records will remain visible to law enforcement and court personnel, as well as certain sensitive employers. The final version of the bill makes all class A felonies, except those related to drug possession, ineligible for sealing. An analysis from the Division of Criminal Justice Services showed that roughly 1 million felonies and up to 4 million misdemeanor convictions would be eligible for sealing. New Yorkers living with criminal records miss out on roughly $2.4 billion in wages annually. Nearly 80% of them are nonwhite.