Clean Slate Act

Published on June 8th, 2021

Memorandum of Concern

Re:  A6399A Cruz / S1553B Myrie
In relation to the Clean Slate Act

The above-referenced legislation would seal or expunge 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.

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 other 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 most vulnerable among us, as well as reassuring parents that our programs are safe. The results speak for themselves, as our programs are now among the safest places for children.

Absent amendment, this legislation threatens that success, thereby putting children needlessly at risk. We have proposed amendment language that would allow organizations that work with children to access relevant criminal conviction records for a very limited purpose.

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.