Clean Slate Act

Published on June 2nd, 2022

Memorandum of Concern

Re:  A6399-C Cruz / S1553-D Myrie
In relation to the Clean Slate Act

The above-referenced legislation would seal most misdemeanor and felony convictions following a waiting period and subject to certain conditions. While the NYS Catholic Conference is generally supportive of measures to give people convicted of crimes a second chance following the conclusion of their sentence, this bill is fundamentally flawed in that it would make it impossible for organizations that work with children or vulnerable adults to adequately assess whether someone who wants to work or volunteer in one of their programs can safely be around children.

Although we have made our concerns clear, amendments to date have only addressed entities that are authorized to conduct fingerprint-based background checks. This is not the case with Catholic parishes and schools and many other religious and secular ministries that serve vulnerable populations. While we do rigorous background check, we are not mandated or authorized to conduct fingerprint-based checks. The bill must be amended to fix this grave issue.

Following the sexual abuse scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church and other organizations two decades ago, the Church has become a leader in the protection of children. Anyone who wants to work or volunteer in our schools, CYO programs, youth ministry programs, summer camps or any program that involves children or vulnerable adults must complete a criminal background check and sexual abuse awareness training. These policies have been instrumental in protecting the children.

For the legislature to undo that critically important work to protect children would be unconscionable. We must answer to parents who want assurances that our programs are safe, something that would be impossible to do if we cannot get access to criminal convictions, including those that involve crimes against children.

To be clear, following are some of the kinds of offenses that we couldn’t even learn about, much less be able to take into consideration, merely after the passage of three years (for misdemeanors) or seven years (for felonies):

Any kind of assault, such as:

–Reckless assault of a child by a child day care provider (Penal Law § 120.01)

–Reckless assault of a child (Penal Law § 120.02)

–Assault in the Second Degree (Penal Law § 120.05)

Any kind of strangulation

Any kind of homicide

Any kind of robbery

Custodial interference (Penal Law §§ 135.45 and 50)

Any offense under Penal Law Article 260, which deals generally with protecting children, including:

–Abandonment of a child (Penal Law § 260.00)

–Endangering the welfare of a child (Penal Law § 260.10)

–Facilitating female genital mutilation (Penal Law § 260.22)

Any kind of drug offense, including:

–Use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense (Penal Law § 220.28)

–Criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds (Penal Law § 220.44)

–Criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child (Penal Law § 220.48)

Any kind of firearm or weapon possession offense, including

–Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds (Penal Law § 265.01-A)

–Unlawful possession of a weapon upon school grounds (Penal Law § 265.06)

–Criminal sale of a firearm to a minor (Penal Law § 265.16)

Ignoring this grave flaw would result in children and vulnerable adults being less safe, and very likely could lead to a tragic outcome. We strongly encourage the sponsors to further amend the bill and, absent that, we urge it be defeated.