It’s the winter holiday season, our second with Covid. Ordinarily some of us would be toasting co-workers at holiday parties and joining them on the dance floor for the Electric Slide. 不是今年. Others of us would be trying to figure out how to put food on the table and give our families any sense of holiday cheer when there was no money to pay for it. It’s hard to be festive when you can’t find work.
Covid has put more of us in this second group, particularly those with conviction histories. Some businesses have been forced to close, putting workers out of the job market. Others are trying to rebuild and meet new consumer demand. 但即使在这个时代, where you see “help wanted” signs everywhere, employers won’t hire individuals who’ve had contact with the criminal punishment system, 包括我们的家人, 朋友, 亲戚, 和邻居.
An astounding one in seven New Yorkers has a conviction history, 主要是黑人和拉丁裔, reflecting decades of discriminatory policing and prosecution and resulting mass incarceration. 毫无根据的担忧和, 在某些情况下, raw racial prejudice disguised as business judgment keeps many employers from offering jobs to people with conviction histories. While businesses are crying out for workers, we haven’t seen any change in this pattern. 大门仍然紧闭, making individuals suffer a form of perpetual punishment long after they completed whatever sentence 法院 demanded, 并让他们, 他们的家庭, 整个社区都陷入贫困.
Clean Slate legislation now pending in the Senate and Assembly (S1553/A6399) can change this. Championed by Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and supported by advocates, 包括摩根大通在内的, 宗教领袖, 劳工组织, 以及劳动力发展小组, Clean Slate will automatically seal conviction records for most jobs and housing purposes after set periods of time. (Conviction records will still be visible to law enforcement, 法院, 检察官, and any agency charged with reviewing applications to work with vulnerable individuals or approving gun license applications.)
Automatically clearing past conviction records is a matter of simple fairness. In these times – or at any time – we can’t keep holding people back from fully participating in our economy and community as a whole and call ourselves a progressive state.
The quest to change this reality is personal to me. By supporting Clean Slate, I bring forward the mission my father, Justice Thomas R. 琼斯，赐予我的. 20世纪60年代，他挑战了罗伯特·F. Kennedy and other leaders to do something concrete about revitalizing Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy community rather than just study it. He was the first chairperson of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. But more important, my father was a warrior for social justice. Before entering public life as a State Assemblymember and then joining the bench, 他是一位不知疲倦的民权律师, fighting for the rights of those in our community and of people of color across the city, 全州乃至全国, 生活不错, peaceable lives unburdened by discrimination. He fought for their rights to fully and deeply participate in everything the community had to offer.
From his work in the community and on the bench, and just walking the streets of our Brooklyn neighborhood, my father knew that Black and Latinx New Yorkers were treated differently by the criminal punishment system than their white counterparts, and that we were policed differently and unfairly. He knew that conviction records shut people out of opportunity on so many different levels, and that once a person had a conviction history, the flame of hope for making a decent life for themselves and 他们的家庭 – getting a good job, 找到一个漂亮的, safe place to live and a foothold in the community – were dimmed. He knew that at a certain point – if there was no hope, 没有帮助, and no prospects for a successful future – that flame could simply die.
他努力让那火焰继续燃烧. 我也一样. 两个星期前, 立法的赞助商, directly affected New Yorkers and I spoke at a Clean Slate rally at Bed-Stuy’s Restoration Plaza, near larger-than-life portraits of my father, 罗伯特F. 肯尼迪，雪莉·奇泽姆和其他人. 这是一次重要的返乡活动. 这个关键的立法, which will allow individuals with conviction histories a fair chance to be full participants in the life of this city and state, is something my father would have championed. I’ve been speaking out on records clearance since 2016, 当我组织, 社区服务协会, launched the predecessor of the Clean Slate New York campaign.
Clean Slate’s mission: allowing people to move past their records into jobs, 稳定的住房, and full membership in their communities. Let 2022 be the year we pass this vital legislation.