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The New York State’s new criminal records sealing law, part of the broader ‘Raise the Age’ legislation, allows certain criminal records to be sealed in an effort to remove the stigma of a criminal conviction

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State Senator Jesse Hamilton alongside criminal justice reform groups, city agency officials and legal aid providers hosted a criminal record sealing info session on Monday in Crown Heights to help local residents take advantage of a newly passed legislation, reported Kings County Politics. The New York State’s new criminal records sealing law, which went in effect on October 7 and is part of the broader ‘Raise the Age’ legislation, allows certain criminal records to be sealed in an effort to remove the stigma of a criminal conviction, and to help individuals when applying for school and filling out job applications.

Chris Alexander, policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance, applauded the new legislation as the beginning of a reform movement in the criminal justice system.

“Somebody’s conviction should not hinder them from moving forward and that’s what this legislation does. This legislation gives people in our communities a second chance,” said Alexander.

The workshop aimed to inform local residents with a criminal record about how they can take advantage of the new law. New Yorkers who have been convicted of up to two crimes, may be eligible to have their convictions sealed. Individuals become eligible for sealing 10 years after their most recent conviction or release from incarceration. However, an individual can become ineligible if more than one of the criminal convictions is a felony or if either of the convictions falls into specific crime categories such as sex offenses, homicide and violent felony offenses.

Photo credit: Kings County Politics

While praised as an important step into the right direction, the new legislation has some limitations: It only applies to background checks through federal and state repositories, like the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), not private sector repositories such as Google.

“There are a bunch of private companies that have repositories with data that they gather from a whole bunch of different places and the biggest repository is Google,” said Khalil Cumberbatch, associate vice president for policy of Fortune Society. “And so if you got caught doing the perp walk coming out of any precinct and someone ‘googles’ that, they can easily find that. And there’s a problem with those repositories because they are known to be inaccurate and not up-to-date.”

During the workshop, State Senator Hamilton also presented a push for another new legislation: The decriminalization of turnstile jumping.

“This year, we also want to do a new legislation on turnstile jumping. We have 20,000 kids being arrested every year for turnstile jumping. And rather than it being a criminal penalty it will be a civil penalty,” said Hamilton. “Kids don’t need to be going to Rikers Island for $2.75 cents.”


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