This weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to pardon all people convicted of a nonviolent crime when they were 16 or 17 years old — as long as they haven’t committed any other crimes in at least ten years and pay their income taxes regularly. The governor’s office estimates that about 10,000 people could be eligible for immediate clemency. The pardons won’t remove the youthful offense from the records of the pardoned, but they would get a letter from the governor that they can show to potential employers. “When people come out, it’s very, very hard … to get them back into society,” Cuomo told NY1. “The stigma of having been incarcerated, the stigma of having committed a crime makes it very, very hard, and that’s not what we need to do.”
New York and North Carolina are the only two states that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in court; the state legislature in Albany considered a bill that would have raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 this year, but it never made much progress.
During Cuomo’s tenure thus far, he has only issued nine pardons or commutations of sentences.