Hochul signs criminal justice reform to give formerly incarcerated people second chances

Posted 23 October 2021 at 3:18 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday signed into law a package of criminal justice reform legislation to give formerly incarcerated New Yorkers second chances, enhancing public safety while reducing recidivism.

The legislation allows individuals who have previously been convicted of a felony to serve as the fiduciary of an estate and allows formerly incarcerated individuals to perform bona fide work without violating parole. It also allows certificates for good behavior to be granted at the time of early discharge and allows individuals under various kinds of supervised release to protest work-related labor conditions.

These pieces of legislation build on Governor Hochul’s vision of a balanced approach to public safety that strengthens fairness in the criminal justice system while ensuring that New York State’s streets are kept safe. They increase economic and social opportunities for formerly incarcerated New Yorkers returning to their communities, promoting a fairer criminal justice system. The Governor’s approach also includes measures to make sure state and local agencies safely and effectively enforce the law.

“For far too long, our criminal justice system has taken away the basic rights of formerly incarcerated individuals—especially people of color—even after they’ve paid their debt to society,” Governor Hochul said. “This package of legislation takes positive steps forward to make sure New York’s criminal justice system treats everyone fairly while enhancing the safety of our neighborhoods. It’s critical that we foster a safe state while ensuring formerly incarcerated New Yorkers have the opportunity for a second chance.”

  • Allowing Individuals Previously Convicted of a Felony to Serve as Fiduciary of an Estate (S.294-A/A.2573-A) – This legislation allows a New Yorker who has been convicted of a felony and fully served a prison sentence the ability to become the executor of a family estate. Previously, the law prevented anyone convicted of a felony from serving as the fiduciary of an estate, even if that person was named executor of the estate in a deceased parent or family member’s will. The legislation allows courts to continue to restrict a person’s ability to become a fiduciary in certain cases in which the prior conviction was associated with fraud or embezzlement, or in cases in which the crime was averse to the welfare of the state.
  • Allowing Bona Fide Work without Violating Parole (S.2803/A.5707) – This legislation allows re-entry workers to perform bona fide work, such as overtime or night shifts, without violating parole. It will not be considered a violation of parole for re-entry workers to engage in bona fide work and travel during curfew times.
  • Allowing Individuals Subject to Supervised Release to Protest Work-related Labor Conditions (S.2801-A/A.5705-A) – This legislation allows individuals subject to several kinds of supervised release to protest work-related labor conditions. Prior to the signing of this legislation, there was no existing law that protected the right of a person under supervised release to protest work-related labor conditions.
  • Granting Certificates at the Time of Early Discharge (S.2630/A.5549) – This legislation simplifies the process of obtaining certificates, issued by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, that can help formerly incarcerated people demonstrate that they have not committed crimes since being released from prison. Certificates can now be granted at the time of early discharge from supervision for good behavior. Certificates can be shown to prospective employers, landlords and others, and can be shown to local boards of elections as proof that the right to vote has been restored. Previously, formerly incarcerated people were required to wait three to five years after being released to apply for certificates. They also were often subject to investigations because they had completed supervision and no longer reported regularly to their parole officers.