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OPINION: Clean Slate Act is Another Step Back for Public Safety In NYS

By Will Barclay


Nearly every public poll conducted in recent years has reflected a similar sentiment: crime is a significant problem in New York state. Yet [on Nov. 16], we were reminded that the public’s sense of urgency isn’t shared by Gov. Hochul and her legislative allies. The signing of the Clean Slate Act, which automatically seals criminal records for most misdemeanors and felonies after a set time, is the latest example of this unsettling pattern.

 Everyone believes in second chances. In fact, New York state already has mechanisms in place for judges to seal certain criminal convictions within reason. But Clean Slate is an ill-conceived law that goes too far. Convictions for violent crimes and felonies like manslaughter, burglary, attempted murder, and gang assault will now be automatically sealed, without input from prosecutors, judges, or crime victims.

 The new law effectively prevents prospective employers, landlords, roommates, and others from accessing criminal records and critical information about an individual’s past. While second chances are important, so too is the ability to make informed decisions based on complete information. The Clean Slate Act ignores that reality and substitutes common-sense protections with radical progressive ideology.

At every press event, we hear the governor’s claims that protecting New Yorkers is her top priority. But signing this bill moves public protection in the wrong direction. Considering New York state has all but eliminated bail, made parole release easier, and raised the age of criminal responsibility, it is hard to believe the governor and left-wing Democrats have any interest in public safety at all.

Criminals in New York enjoy an ever-growing array of legal protections at a time when crime continues to be a concern for most New Yorkers. Instead of fixing the problem, the radical liberal agenda continues to stack pro-criminal polices on top of each other — Bail Reform, Raise the Age, Clean Slate — with more certainly on the way.

Undermining law enforcement, prioritizing lawbreakers over victims, and legislating personal accountability and consequences out of the justice system puts public safety in jeopardy. It’s a troubling pattern and an unsustainable path.                 

William (Will) A. Barclay, 54, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.