New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed the Clean Slate Act, bringing the number of US states that have enacted automatic record clearance legislation to 12. The new law—which will automatically seal the criminal records of up to 2 million New Yorkers—will help remove barriers to opportunity posed by having a criminal record.
Currently, a person seeking expungement of a criminal record in New York must navigate a record clearance process that is burdensome, time-consuming, and expensive. For many, this administrative burden amounts to a lifelong extension of a sentence they already have completed. In New York, 99.8% of eligible people have not sealed their records, largely because of the complexity and cost of the process. Under the new law, which will take effect in three years, the state will instead seal eligible records automatically and close this second-chance gap.
“For far too many New Yorkers, a criminal conviction in the past has made it hard to hope for a better future. That changes today,” said Alia Toran-Burrell, Program Director of Code for America’s Clear My Record program. “Code for America is excited for New York to join states like Utah and Pennsylvania who have already successfully implemented their Clean Slate laws.”
Since 2018, Code for America has built technology in California and Utah to clear the records of 500,000 people. We’ve helped over 20 states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Michigan, design automatic record clearance policies that government can implement effectively.
Across the United States, a criminal record is a barrier to a living wage job, good housing, and education. This lifelong social and economic penalty has a disproportionate impact on communities of color, making it a major obstacle to equity. The Clean Slate Act in New York is one more step toward a world in which automatic record clearance is the norm, unlocking opportunity for millions in the process.