Legal Action Center applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo for the bold, humane, and just plan he announced today to conditionally pardon people convicted of misdemeanors or non-violent felonies when they were 16- or 17-years-old, if they have not had a subsequent conviction in ten years. “These pardons are a huge step to reverse the devastating and perpetual harms caused by criminal records,” said LAC Director and President Paul Samuels.
Shamefully, New York is one of only two states in the nation that prosecutes all youth as adults starting at age 16. Governor Cuomo has urged the state legislature to reverse this policy, but the legislature has so far not acted. “Considering the brain science showing that brain development continues into our twenties and common sense that tells us they are too young to be fully accountable, it makes little sense to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, especially when we are talking about less serious crimes,” said LAC Vice-President and Deputy Director Anita Marton.
A criminal record can haunt people for the rest of their lives, creating barriers to employment, education, housing, public benefits, and other opportunities most people take for granted. Coming close to the beginning of a new year, Governor Cuomo’s announcement offers as many as 10,000 New Yorkers the chance at a new beginning unencumbered by legal barriers that arise from their criminal record.
Under the plan, Governor Cuomo will issue conditional pardons to qualifying applicants who meet certain criteria in addition to having been conviction-free for ten years. Pardons could be revoked in the future if a recipient commits another crime. Conditional pardons will be offered to applicants after an individualized process that ensures they are deserving of the state’s relief.
LAC commends the Governor for acting and urges the New York legislature to raise the age of responsibility to 18 years.