On November 16, 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Clean Slate Bill (S7551A/A.1029) into law, which will automatically seal conviction records for millions of eligible New Yorkers who have paid their debt to society, improving their access to housing, education, and employment.
The adoption of the Clean Slate NY Act is a win for all New Yorkers who believe in the power of redemption and atonement. It is also a win for social and economic justice. New York disproportionately imprisons people of color, and research conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice shows that people with criminal records in this country collectively lose $12.6 billion a year.
Trinity Church Wall Street has been a longtime supporter of the Clean Slate NY Act, providing almost $1.5 million in grants to support its passage. Our efforts to strengthen criminal record–clearing policies began with a grant to support the Data Collaborative for Justice’s research on criminal convictions in New York City in 2020. We then connected DCJ researchers to Clean Slate campaign organizers, driving momentum on the campaign by linking the stories of people impacted by conviction records to data-driven narratives. That and subsequent research by DCJ galvanized statewide support among policymakers for the bill, leading to its passage by both the State Senate and Assembly in June 2023.
Trinity also supported the campaign itself. Four Trinity grantees served as steering committee members of the campaign: the Center for Community Alternatives, Legal Action Center, Bronx Defenders, and Community Service Society. Trinity also allocated $190,000 in funding over three years for dedicated communications and marketing for the campaign.
But we knew it wasn’t enough only to fund this work. So, in 2022, Trinity joined the Clean Slate New York coalition with other faith institutions, advocates, business leaders, labor unions, real estate developers, and nonprofits calling for legislators to pass the bill. As coalition members, we engaged other faith partners in the campaign, including New York Theological Seminary, Bronx Connect, and Central Synagogue. Trinity worked with the coalition to create a wave of support in the public sphere, sending memos and letters of support directly to state legislators and publishing joint op-eds.
At Trinity, we believe every person is created in the image of God and has dignity and value—and that our laws should reflect that truth. We believe that faith institutions and philanthropy have a critical role to play in collaborating with advocates and policymakers alike to build the beloved community we seek, a community in which everyone is cared for. The success of the Clean Slate campaign is a welcome demonstration of the power of this approach.