Buffalo Common Council Passes Clean Slate Resolution

Date: October 6, 2021

The Buffalo Common Council approved a resolution on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 in support of the Clean Slate Act (S.1553B/A.6399A), urging the New York State Legislature to end perpetual punishment for millions of New Yorkers with conviction records. Read the full press release below. 

For Immediate Release

October 5, 2021

Contact: Tanvier Peart, tanvier@ppgbuffalo.org, (716) 406-8821


Buffalo Becomes the First City in Western New York to Pass a Resolution Urging the State Legislature to Enact Clean Slate

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Common Council approved a resolution on Tuesday in support of the Clean Slate Act (S.1553B/A.6399A), urging the New York State Legislature to end perpetual punishment for millions of New Yorkers with conviction records. Over 400,000 people are arrested on criminal charges in New York each year, with 2.3 million across the state living with a conviction history. New York State incarcerates people at a higher rate than the United Kingdom, Canada, and France combined—creating barriers to jobs, housing, education, and full participation in the very life of this state..

Clean Slate would create an automatic process to seal records for people three years after completing their sentence for a misdemeanor conviction or seven years after a felony conviction if the individual is off probation, parole or post release supervision, hasn’t accrued subsequent convictions or pending charges in New York during the waiting period, and was not convicted of a sex offense.

This bill addresses economic and racial justice, as communities of color are disproportionately harmed by mass incarceration in our state. Data shows that those who have been to prison lose an average of $484,400 in earnings over their lifetime, which ultimately hurts our shared economic growth. 

"For the 2.3 million New Yorkers living with a conviction history, the stigma associated with a criminal record stays with them for the rest of their lives," said University District Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt, who filed the resolution. "From employment and housing to higher education, individuals with conviction histories are locked out of opportunities integral to living safe and stable lives."

The Clean Slate New York coalition calls for the bill's immediate passage when the State Legislature returns to session in January 2022. Assemblymember Jon Rivera (D-149) is the first to co-sponsor the bill in the Buffalo area. 

"I am very excited to hear Assemblymember Rivera will co-sponsor the essential Clean Slate legislation. As a housing attorney, I know that this bill will be transformative when it comes to formerly incarcerated residents being able to transition back into our communities in a healthy, dignified manner, and I look forward to its passage," said Adam Bojak, a housing and tenants' rights attorney.

"Passing the Clean Slate Act is a means to end perpetual punishment the criminal (in)justice system compounds on millions of people who have already served an excessive amount of time," said Donna Robinson, WNY Organizer for Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP). "Upon release, they are branded with a scarlet letter which denies them the basic human right to live, work, and further enjoy the true meaning of freedom. This bill is a no-brainer, unlike others that cause fear-mongering among the 1%. Clean Slate would allow families to rebuild a shattered existence into one of dignity and pride."

"Recovery during the pandemic cannot happen without restoration, and Clean Slate provides just that. A criminal record should not be a life sentence to poverty," said Tanvier Peart, Just Recovery Coordinator at the Partnership for the Public Good and Free the People WNY State Working Group Chair.

"Clean Slate is an opportunity for us to get on the right track and build a life we thought was lost. Without Clean Slate, directly impacted folks and their families will continue to struggle to live a normal life," said Tyrell Ford, member of Free the People WNY. "This is an opportunity to build up those who feel the lifelong burden of having a criminal record. As a member of the 2.3 million directly impacted people, I know this bill will lead to better jobs while also building a better quality of life for me and my family."

"Clean Slate is about new beginnings! We cannot—as a state or nation—commit to building back better without considering the barriers to an inclusive economy, workforce, and society! They have served their time, and it's time for legislation and society to do the same. Release them!," said Kim Smith, Deputy Policy Director at VOCAL-NY.

"As a result of over thirty years in policing and encountering numerous individuals that have gone through our criminal justice system, it is clear that carrying a criminal conviction or convictions produces challenges that are often insurmountable. Among these challenges are difficulties in gaining meaningful employment, which give some individuals few options but to reoffend to support themselves and/or their families …. This is a smart, common-sense approach that will reduce crime, grow our economy and create stronger neighborhoods," said Deputy Chief Wayne Harris (Ret.), Chairman of the Board of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). 

Read the full resolution here.