“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
- Frederick Douglass
"Clean Slate" is a group of programs hosted by the Office of Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares that aims to reverse engineer the flow of young adults away from traditional criminal justice system, both aiming to avoid criminal conviction and address the harsh realities that ex-offenders often face after re-entering society.
Across the country, there is a growing recognition that the criminal justice system must do better. Policymakers are realizing that merely incarcerating every defendant who walks through the courthouse door does not serve the interests of the public or the cause of justice. The effect of prison on young defendants is of particular concern.
What is needed are... comprehensive and effective youth crime prevention strategies on a large scale level to address and reduce the root causes of poverty, crime, and recidivism. In order to evolve, we must involve - community participation is a critical piece to community success.
What is needed is... a radical rethinking of the roles of all actors in the justice system. Prosecutors are uniquely well positioned to address the crisis of public confidence in several ways, including broad access to information about offenders and victims through a Restorative Justice model, knowledge of the law, and discretion to proceed with felony level offenses on alternative to incarceration tracks.
What is needed are... new and innovative tools for prosecutors, tools that will give them the ability to address the causes of offending conduct in appropriate cases. Importantly, those intervention strategies must give offenders, especially young adults, an all-important path to avoid a criminal conviction. Conversely, these tools must also include the opportunity for older adults to break free from the stigma of a felony criminal conviction for a non-violent offense that occurred during young adult years.
Why? In the past twenty-five years, the prison population in the United States has ballooned, and we now have a higher incarceration rate than any country in the world, including Russia and China.
The Albany County District Attorney’s RECLAMATION Felony Youth Diversion Program seeks to engage the entire community in redirecting youth away from the criminal justice system. Candidates are screened through a structured Diversion Board process. Once accepted, eligible participants aged 16 to 24 charged with certain felonies are offered the opportunity to take accountability for criminal wrongdoing, repair harm to any victimized party, and become contributing members of community – all without the stigma of a felony criminal conviction or time served in State Prison.
Why? 67.8% of former prisoners are re-arrested within three years of release, and 76.6% are rearrested within five.
The RESTORATION effort of the District Attorney's Office is a collaboration between our Community Justice Outreach Office and several community agencies focusing on the promotion of re-entry resources and services to formally incarcerated individuals and their families. Doors at the Outreach Office are open for community members to use computers, type and send resumes, and search for employment.
Why? One study estimated that ex-felons suffered from a 15% to 30% higher unemployment rate than non-felons, and another found that only about 40 percent of employers would be likely to hire applicants with criminal records.
The REDEMPTION Expungement program includes efforts aimed to clear records of criminal convictions for non-violent or low-level offenders who have shown positive rehabilitation. Efforts to reach this goal are a vital piece of the Albany County District Attorney's Office "Clean Slate" model, utilizing the newly enacted sealing provisions under NYS CPL § 160.59, or through NYS CPL § 440 statutes.
Diversion Board Members
Community Accountability Board Members
Mentors or Youth Programming and Life Skill Experts
The success of the CLEAN SLATE program is not possible without the support of community members and local agencies willing to support our youth.
At this time we are calling on the Albany County community to volunteer in this venture.
Do you have skills or resources that you would be willing to volunteer?
We are seeking individuals, programs, and non-profits to assist in the important work that goes into keeping youth AWAY from the criminal justice system.
If you have an interest in learning more about the training process to become a member of our Clean Slate Felony Youth Diversion Program, please contact us below.
*Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice. Please contact a licensed attorney for information about your rights.*