New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will pardon thousands of people who were convicted of nonviolent crimes as teenagers but have since led law-abiding lives, the New York Times reports. Envisioned as a way to remove barriers to employment, housing and other services, the pardons would be available to anyone who was found guilty of a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor that was committed while they were 16 or 17, provided they have spent at least a decade without more convictions. Cuomo intends to invite those people to apply for a pardon, as long as they meet several other criteria.
Cuomo said his plan would provide second chances to generations of once-youthful offenders who had long since abandoned their criminal lives but continue to be dogged by their criminal pasts. The governor has been considered parsimonious on clemency, issuing only nine pardons or commutations of sentences in nearly five years in office. Officials estimate that there is a backlog of 10,000 New Yorkers who may qualify immediately for the governor's pardons, with an additional 350 becoming eligible each year as they pass 10 years without additional convictions. The new policy was praised by advocates who have been lobbying to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York, one of only two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in criminal court.