SCHENECTADY — A law designed to provide second chances to formerly incarcerated individuals was backed by the Schenectady City Council during its second time in front of council on Monday night.
A resolution to support the Clean Slate Act, a proposed state law that would seal criminal conviction records of some formerly incarcerated individuals, was passed 4-3 by the council on Monday after failing to pass the board in a Jan. 23 vote.
While City Councilman John Mootooveren was absent from the January meeting and the measure ended up in a 3-3 deadlock, during the Monday meeting Mootooveren joined with Board President Marion Porterfield and City Councilmen Carl Williams and Damonni Farley in passing the resolution.
City Councilman John Polimeni and City Councilwomen Carmel Patrick and Doreen Ditoro opposed the measure.
The proposed law, which passed the state Senate in June but has yet to receive a vote in the state Assembly, would automatically seal the records of former prisoners who have finished their sentences and completed their probation and paroles and have no subsequent convictions. It would not cover all felonies, such as sex crimes.
The proposed state legislation would seal the records seven years from their release and three years for misdemeanors.
Board President Marion Porterfield said she was pleased with the council’s resolution passed in its second balloting.
“I think it’s good legislation and as I pointed out we’re supporting housing for people who are formerly incarcerated, so to me it’s also to give people an opportunity for employment and there are safeguards in place that don’t allow people to slip through the cracks, sex offenders specifically,” Porterfield said. “There’s other things to make sure vulnerable populations are not impacted negatively by this.”
Williams, who was instrumental in advocating for the Clean Slate resolution, said the second vote represented the will of the community.
“I believe this is a true reflection of the emotional framework of the city,” he said following the meeting. “Schenectady is truly a community that understands its needs. Through true deliberation, we can accomplish some wonderful work and I believe this is one of the first steps to identifying and emphasizing the need for the [state] Legislature to pass this law because it’s something that can truly benefit individuals and their families and communities.”
Prior to the council vote, Polimeni reiterated his opposition to the resolution.
“Where’s the clean slate for the victims and their families?” Polimeni asked during the meeting. “There is none, it continues forever. Even acts that are so-called minor stick with individuals for the rest of their lives. Families have been destroyed because of the actions of others. Individuals have had their lives turned upside down and destroyed.”
Williams said the city will continue to advocate for the state to pass the Clean Slate Act. In September, the Albany City Council passed a resolution in support of the proposed state legislation.
“I hope that as this mounting effort continues to grow in size that more municipalities will join in passing similar resolutions,” he said following the meeting. “But absolutely the work is not over. This is truly the first step, but we have to remain informed and aware of how this conversation is progressing and make sure the actions that we do reflect the manner of supporting these individuals that have paid their debt and need to be welcomed back to the community.”
Rev. Nicolle Harris told the board during the meeting that she supported the resolution to back the Clean Slate Act.
“Our system is supposed to be a rehabilitation system and at some point it has to work and we have to trust it,” she told the council.
The Schenectady resolution notes that 8.7 million people in New York have criminal conviction records, with many formerly incarcerated individuals facing barriers in procuring employment and housing upon their release.