Now that we are back in the community, have our rights been fully restored or are they but limited? May we vote? May we work? May we work anywhere? Can people discriminate against us in housing and/or employment because of our criminal history? These are things we should understand and be prepared for…Read more →
Basic needs. From the start, you have the right to apply for benefits–public assistance, including emergency assistance and/or shelter, SNAP, Medicaid, child care assistance, etc.—and the right to a hearing if an application is not processed promptly or denied. Applicants and recipients of these benefits also have the right to accommodation for disability, such as home visits, or exemptions from work requirements. Those whose ability to speak and understand English is limited have a right to interpretation and translation of documents. Information on public assistance is found under Basics on this page.
Licensing, participation, voting. Some rights are restored over time, such as your right to obtain a professional or trade license, to serve in a public office, and to vote. To obtain these rights after probation or parole you need to qualify for a Certificate of Relief or a Certificate of Good Conduct; both are issued by the NYS Division of Parole. How you qualify for these depends on the type of crime committed and the amount of time that has passed since you were released. The right to vote is automatically restored when you complete your maximum sentence or are discharged by the Board of Parole.
Employment. It is against the Civil Rights Act to be barred from employment by an organization of 15 or more people unless the conviction is closely related to the job. Knowing your rights of employment and being clear about how your conviction is represented in public documents is important. Find out more in The Prime Objective and the Job Search Tool Kit – both are linked on the Jobs page of this guide.
The Community Service Society (CSS) estimates that nearly 30 percent of official New York State criminal records contain at least one error. Fixing these errors—and getting a complete understanding of the corrected criminal record—can help open doors to employment, housing, and stability that had previously been closed. The Next Door Project has trained volunteers to help people clean up their RAP sheets and apply for Certificates of Good Conduct or Certificates of Relief from Disabilities. You can access this free assistance by attending one of their monthly “intake” sessions held at their offices on 633 Third Ave, 10th Floor in New York City. Linked here is the 2016 schedule of workshops. You must call 212.614.5441 to make an appointment to attend, or call if you have any other questions. Leave a message with contact information and they will return your call.
If you want to get started understanding your New York State RAP sheet the Legal Action Center offers a very readable guide to getting, understanding & correcting your criminal record. Finally, The Papillon Foundation is a non-profit corporation providing free links to web-based resources for the expungement and sealing of criminal records throughout the United States. They also provide free links to other forms such as application for clemency, pardons, and certificates of relief from disabilities/of good conduct. Information is available for both adult and juvenile criminal records. Here is the link for New York State specific criminal record resources.
Legal services. A number of organizations familiar with the typical challenges you may face, can provide you with legal services. Three good things to know: (1) Lawyers are necessary for things like discrimination, criminal matters , executing advance directives. (2) There are specialized agencies that handle immigration law and issues. (3) There are low cost or sliding scale payment resources.