New York State Bar Association calls on Congress to pass criminal record sealing law
Anyone committing a crime should serve time, but should they be punished for the rest of their lives?
The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) doesn’t think so and it is advocating for a proposed bill in Congress that would seal certain criminal records so that people can avoid continued punishment even after they’ve served their time.
The NYSBA Executive Committee approved recommendations of its Criminal Justice Section’s Sealing Committee that call for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to pass a comprehensive criminal record sealing law.
“This is an important report and recommendations,” said NYSBA President Michael Miller. “Those who have paid their debts to society for nonviolent federal offenses in the distant past should be allowed to achieve full redemption. I want to take this opportunity to thank all who contributed to the report for their commitment to including humanity and compassion in the criminal justice process.”
NYSBA made a similar bill a legislative priority in 2017 at the state level and helped get it passed into law as New York became one of 40 other states to have a law providing for some form of criminal record sealing or expungement. However, such a law does not exist at the federal level. As a result, even those convicted of minor, nonviolent crimes struggle to find jobs and housing.
“The State Bar has championed the opportunity for deserving individuals with long-past, low-level, nonviolent criminal convictions in the state courts to have a second chance to make the most of their lives,” said Rick Collins, co-chair with Jay Shapiro of the Criminal Justice Section’s Sealing Committee.
There are several bills pending in congress at the moment, but NYSBA outlined three points that it wants to see in any successful bill.
Those include the ability to allow those convicted of nonviolent federal offenses to petition the court to have their convictions sealed; the ability to allow those convicted of eligible federal offenses to apply after the completion of the sentence imposed; and to direct the Administrative Offices of the U.S. Courts to create a universal application, available online and in paper form, that an individual may use to file a sealing petition.
“Our state sealing statute, which was a State Bar 2017 Legislative Priority and was enacted last year, helps those individuals and their families to have better options for employment, housing, and education,” said Collins. “Now the State Bar has spoken out for people whose convictions happened to occur in federal court rather than state court. All the same considerations apply for these people, who similarly deserve, after many years of demonstrated good behavior, their shot at the American dream.”
A full copy of the report is available online at www.nysba.org/sealing/.
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