Albany County District Attorney David Soares briefed reporters this afternoon about a new sealing order provision.
Soares has been publicizing criminal justice reforms he calls "Clean Slate." He hopes the efforts will keep young adults ages 16 through 24 who have had scrapes with the law out of the criminal justice system in the long term.
Soares identifies the three stages of "Clean Slate": Reclamation, Restoration and Redemption. He says the initiatives have been successful. "Tomorrow, I'm happy to announce that through our reclamation project , we have our first graduate, a young man who is going to have his felony charges dismissed in Albany city court."
As of this coming Saturday, Soares says a sealing provision goes into effect. "Which, like our redemption strategy, is designed to help ex-offenders who have demonstrated an abandonment of their old ways and who've gotten on with their lives. It helps those individuals have their records sealed. Effective one week from today, qualifying ex-offenders with qualifying offenses may apply in an Albany County Court, or any court in the state of New York, and have their records sealed, thus enabling them to move forward with their lives."
Soares adds potential employers and others cannot access sealed records, making it easier for ex-offenders to land and keep a job. Sealed records would still remain available to law enforcement, but unavailable to the public.
When Soares first introduced "Clean Slate" initiatives in June, Alice Green of the Center For Law and Justice noted that there are a number of non-violent felons stuck in the prison system. "They should be out in the community where the community should be helpful to them."
To be eligible under the new statute, a person who was formerly incarcerated would have had to walk out of the Department of Corrections 10 years ago. "If that person received a sentence of probation, it's not at the termination of probation, it's at the date of the sentencing."
An eligible offense includes most crimes defined in the laws of New York other than a sex offense, a Class A felony offense, a violent felony offense, a homicide, or conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the aforementioned crimes.
Soares is already taking steps to get word out. "What we intend on doing is having a series of open houses here that will invite agencies, not-for-profits, that are servicing this target audience, but what we also intend to do is make ourselves available in the community and have open houses at the public libraries and explain to them not only what this means, this particular legislation, but also explain to them other opportunities that they have to get more relief.”