Bipartisan Criminal Justice Coalition Unanimously Voted to Support Four “Second Chance” Policy Proposals Ahead of 2022 NYS Legislative Session
ALBANY, NY—December 15, 2021—New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)—a bipartisan criminal justice reform coalition of more than a dozen national and local organizations—today released the Second Chance Agenda for New York, a package of legislative proposals designed to reduce recidivism rates, cut public spending related to incarceration, and build new and permanent paths to successful reentry for people involved in the criminal legal system, and increase public safety. The coalition of groups that make up NYUJ unanimously voted to adopt and support the agenda’s policy proposals for the upcoming 2022 legislative session.
“Today, our state simply does not do enough to ensure that incarcerated New Yorkers come home and stay home safely and permanently. Despite the fact that 95% of those incarcerated will be released and reenter society, the barriers to success in our state after incarceration make our communities less safe, waste untold millions of taxpayer dollars, and destroy families,” said NYUJ Executive Director Alexander Horwitz. “That’s why we are thrilled to announce the launch of this holistic legislative agenda and campaign to improve the lives of New Yorkers. We welcome legislators, the public, advocates, and law enforcement to join the Second Chance Agenda for New York and help create a criminal legal system that prioritizes second chances, reduces wasteful public spending, and provides a safe and permanent way home for incarcerated New Yorkers.”
The Second Chance Agenda for New York is composed of four legislative proposals that will expand data-driven reentry services; reduce needlessly harsh and lengthy prison sentences; remove barriers to reentry with “clean slate” record sealing; and improve the state’s criminal justice data system. Specific policies and legislation include:
- Investment in Reentry Services: NYUJ is developing new legislation that would build and fund a statewide ecosystem of evidence-based reentry services and behavioral health treatment programs. These community-based programs will support formerly incarcerated individuals as they re-enter society, reducing recidivism rates, and lowering wasteful incarceration-related expenses for taxpayers.
- Clean Slate Record Sealing: One in three New Yorkers have a criminal record—NYUJ supports “Clean Slate” legislation, which would seal criminal records from view by non-governmental entities like landlords and prospective employees after a reasonable period of time. This policy will help eliminate potentially lifelong barriers to basic necessities critical to successful reentry, such as employment and housing.
- Second Look Sentencing: Currently, hundreds of New Yorkers are serving needlessly harsh and unjustly long prison sentences that do not help their rehabilitation or increase public safety. NYUJ supports “Second Look” sentencing reform that will allow the courts to review individuals’ sentences on a case-by-case basis after they’ve served a certain amount of time to determine whether their original sentences are necessary. “Second Look” sentencing will give judges an important tool to safely reduce New York’s prison population.
- Data Modernization: New York’s criminal legal system currently faces significant data gaps that make it practically impossible to properly plan and evaluate public safety strategies. NYUJ is developing new legislation that closes the gaps in New York’s system to collect, measure, and access critical cross-system criminal law data, in addition to making the data accessible to the public.
“A society that does not recognize the human capacity for growth and redemption is inhumane. The Second Chance Agenda for New York will restore humanity, offer hope and opportunity, and promote much-needed transparency so that the public can finally have the real facts about New York’s criminal legal system,” said NYUJ Executive Committee Chair Norman L. Reimer.
NYUJ has a proven track record of successfully advocating for various criminal legal reforms in New York State—including meaningful changes to pretrial detention, discovery laws, police disciplinary record secrecy, and, most recently, the state’s parole system through the “Less is More” Act. These reforms have addressed some of the most pernicious parts of New York’s criminal system, including what happens to New Yorkers when they are first accused of crimes, while they are on trial, and after they have been paroled. The Second Chance Agenda for New York addresses the next frontier in criminal legal reform: how to lower recidivism, decrease spending, and ensure that New Yorkers have a meaningful and fair opportunity for a second chance after incarceration.
For more information about the Second Chance Agenda for New York, visit: https://nyuj.org/secondchances/.
“As New Yorkers, we must commit to ensuring that people coming home from prison have the best opportunities to succeed: to reconnect with their families, find meaningful employment and stable housing, and break the cycle of incarceration. The Second Chance Agenda for New York will make our criminal legal system fairer, and demonstrate that investing in people instead of prisons will make this a safer state and city.”
Dream Corps JUSTICE
“We say we believe in second chances, but New York’s laws don’t reflect it. Our prison sentences are excessively long, and those released are burdened with criminal records that last a lifetime. The combination creates never-ending obstacles for people seeking financial stability after coming home. NYUJ’s policy proposals will help change that, and put us on a path to a healthier and safer society.”
Senior Counsel, John L. Neu Justice Counsel, Justice
Brennan Center for Justice
“The Second Chance Agenda for New York is critical to the future of New York. The criminal justice system in our country has clear links to slavery, the Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws. It is integral we create an agenda focused on supporting returning individuals, reducing recidivism, and promoting public safety.”
Senior Vice President, Equitable Justice & Strategic Initiatives
National Urban League
“For far too long, New York’s criminal justice system has disenfranchised Black and Latino residents with multiple barriers to successful, permanent reentry into their communities. The Second Chance Agenda gives so many the opportunity to have their unjust prison sentences revised, provides rehabilitation and support services addressing reentry needs while reducing recidivism, and ensures that criminal records no longer prevent access to basic needs like employment and housing. This agenda supports the formerly incarcerated while enhancing public safety of all New Yorkers.”
Vice President for Policy & Strategic Engagement
“Excessive sentences have never and will never be a solution to crime. FAMM has been encouraging states across the country to consider second look bills because they’re a common-sense solution to our crowded prisons, and a strong second look bill would position New York as a leader in criminal justice reform in the United States.”
Families Against Mandatory Minimums
“The Criminal-Legal System in the U.S. has a long history of racial and economic inequities. Historic trends show that low-income individuals, families, and communities of color often experience a harsher and more inequitable justice system than others. This reality has caused generational trauma and harm. The Second Chance Agenda for New York has the opportunity to begin undoing this legacy of harm, by advancing new policies and practices that center equity by expanding access to necessary reentry resources and that institutionalize practices that will reduce recidivism, promote wellness, and create greater public safety for all.”
Dr. Jamie R. Riley
Director of Race & Justice
“Despite recent progress in reducing prison populations, New York’s criminal justice system remains woefully unjust and harsh, while our communities are under-equipped to provide the support needed for helping people stay on the path to successful reentry. NYUJ’s Second Chance Agenda for New York and its recommendations are critical steps toward creating a meaningful system, one that empowers New Yorkers and our communities and one that focuses on keeping people home, not behind bars.”
Dr. Hazel Dukes
NAACP New York State Conference
“This Second Chance Agenda will keep us safer, save valuable taxpayer resources, and ensure that our justice system prioritizes rehabilitation. We look forward to working together with the Coalition to reduce barriers to reentry for those exiting the system, and ensure that all New Yorkers have a fair chance to succeed.”
Senior State Policy Manager
Coalition for Public Safety, Justice Action Network
“Ensuring people feel they have a place in society is key to making communities safe and reducing incarceration. We must provide people coming home from prison access to the services and support they need to succeed. The Second Chances Agenda is a critical step toward creating real public safety and an inclusive economy throughout New York. We urge lawmakers in Albany and community members across the state to come together and support this holistic approach to safety, wellbeing, and stability.”
Chief Executive Officer
“NACDL has long believed that it is time for the U.S. to celebrate the human potential for growth and move from an era of collateral consequences to an era of restoration of rights and status. As such, we are pleased to be supporting New Yorkers United for Justice’s Second Chance Agenda for New York. In addition to removing barriers through successful reentry to policies such as clean slate, lawmakers must also extend second chance opportunities to incarcerated individuals through resentencing and early release opportunities, such as second look sentencing legislation, tackling the problem of mass incarceration at its core, and addressing the problem of harsh sentences head on.”
Senior Director of Advocacy
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
About New Yorkers United for Justice
New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) is a statewide coalition of local and national nonprofit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal legal reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal legal system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or religion must be the standard.