KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WEEK: CLOSING CASES, OPENING DOORS

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August 6-10, 2018

QUEENS, NY – Borough President Melinda Katz and the Legal Aid Society announced details of their upcoming “Know Your Rights Week: Closing Cases, Opening Doors”, a week-long series of public legal workshops between August 6-10 in various neighborhoods throughout Queens. Participants can access free, confidential advice from lawyers on ways to alleviate unnecessary barriers to employment and economic opportunity, including applications to seal their non-violent criminal conviction records, cleaning up rap sheets, and obtaining Certificates of Relief and Good Conduct.

“If you’ve proven that you’ve turned your life around and are making good, the burden of a past non-violent mistake should not ruin or impede your future opportunities for the rest of your life,” Borough President KATZ said. “Second chances and social justice reform are an integral part of New York values. This is about eliminating barriers to employment and economic opportunity, reducing recidivism rates and breaking the cycle. Our hope and aim with ‘Know Your Rights Weeks’ is to bolster public awareness and connect eligible New Yorkers with free legal assistance and, ultimately, relief. The tireless efforts on the part of our community partners – and especially the Legal Aid Society – to equip and empower New Yorkers of their rights have a direct impact on building a better future for the growing families of Queens.”

“Everyone deserves a second chance, and that includes a genuine opportunity to seal dated convictions that jeopardize housing, employment and other livelihoods,” said TINA LUONGO, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “We’re proud to partner with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and many community based partner organizations for ‘Know Your Rights Week’.  Providing services and critical knowledge of the law to communities throughout this City is the key work of our Community Justice Unit and the core mission of everyone at The Legal Aid Society.

Any criminal conviction can significantly hinder a person’s ability to secure employment, housing, financial aid, professional licenses and numerous other rights and benefits. New York’s conviction sealing law* is based on the belief that non-violent offenders who have turned their lives around for the better should no longer have to bear the stigma of a conviction or face unnecessary barriers to opportunity and employment.

The new law went into effect on October 7, 2017 after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation into law in April 2017. According to news reports, court officials believe that as many as 600,000 people in New York State could be eligible to seal their convictions, but as of May 2018, only 346 people statewide had their convictions sealed.

The August 2018 “Know Your Rights Week: Closing Cases, Opening Doors” is in partnership with 696 Build Queensbridge, LIFE Camp, Inc., Sheltering Arms NY – Rock Safe Streets, Transitional Services for New York, Inc. and the Queens Library. The week is part of Borough President Katz’s slate of “Know Your Rights Weeks” and a continuation of her long-running partnership with the borough’s legal professionals to expand services across communities. All services and legal consultations provided during the week are free and confidential; RSVP is recommended but walk-ins are welcome.

Borough President Katz has partnered with attorneys for several years to provide legal services at various Resource Fairs; as demands and needs increased, Borough President Katz launched her “Know Your Rights Week” initiative. The June 2018 series featured workshops and clinics focused on immigration; upcoming scheduled series include another week of “Closing Cases, Opening Doors” in September 2018, and on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in October 2018.

“The 696 Build Queensbridge team whole heartedly supports having The Legal Aid Society’s ‘Case Closed’ Program coming into Queensbridge,” said K. BAIN, Founding Director 696 Build Queensbridge. “We believe that this program will open doors that were previously shut off to those who have fallen victim to the criminal justice system. In a society where mass incarceration and the privatization of prisons appear to be driving the economy one’s record being sealed for any person who has not committed a crime in 10 years and has no more than 2 convictions can make all the difference by bettering your chances at advancing your career, obtaining housing, and gaining access to resources. Additionally, this human justice approach to twos legal reform can be used to heal, low income communities of color, like ours, who have been targeted by biased policing and institutional discrimination and systemic oppression. We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with The Legal Aid Society that promotes the livelihood of all members in our communities, especially those who have been left behind for far too long.”

“This program is giving people an opportunity to start over and get a second chance,” said ERICA FORD, LIFE Camp, Inc. “Investing into our communities is very important and I am glad to be a part of this process.”

“Rock Safe Streets is excited to partner with the Queens Borough President to help the Far Rockaway community get their cases sealed,” said MOUSTAFA SHAKUR of Sheltering Arms NY – Rock Safe Streets.

“We are proud to partner with the Borough President to present the opportunities that exist to free confidential resources to help get a second chance in their lives,” said LARRY S. GRUBLER, PSY.D., CEO of Transitional Services for New York, Inc. “Everyone needs an opportunity to transition from a point in their life where they need a lot of support to a point in their life where they need less support. Without this knowledge it is hard to move forward.”

“We are grateful to Queens Borough President Katz for offering our patrons and the public access to legal assistance that may not be otherwise available to them to seal their convictions and help them be successful in their lives,” said DENNIS M. WALCOTT, Queens Library President and CEO. “The ‘Know Your Rights’ workshops have proven to be invaluable to individuals who have participated in them at our libraries to date and we look forward to working with Borough President Katz to bring more of them to our libraries.”

*About New York’s Conviction Sealing Law

The law applies only to specific – predominantly non-violent – crimes; convictions for sex offenses and class A and violent felonies cannot be sealed pursuant to this law. Ten years must pass after the person’s last conviction or release from prison (whichever is later) before a person may apply for this relief; the person must have no charges pending, and the person is unlikely eligible if they have been convicted of two or more felonies, or more than two crimes. If granted, the person’s conviction would be hidden from public records (a sealed record would still be available to law enforcement agencies, employers for jobs that require a firearm, and pursuant to a background check for a gun purchase).

***PLEASE INCLUDE IN YOUR COMMUNITY CALENDAR***

Below is the full schedule for Know Your Rights Week: Closing Cases, Opening Doors (fliers in English, Spanish, Chinese, Bengali and Korean attached and available at www.queensbp.org/knowyourrights):

 

Monday, August 6

Time: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Location: LIFE Camp, Inc., @ 111-12 Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica

RSVP: Call Germain Thompson at 646.300.0538

 

Tuesday, August 7           

Time: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Location: 696 Build Queensbridge @ 10-31 41st Avenue in Long Island City

RSVP: Call Germain Thompson at 646.300.0538

 

Wednesday, August 8           .

Time:  2:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Location: Transitional Services for New York, Inc. – Hazel House @ 80-45 Winchester Boulevard (Building 74) in Queens Village

RSVP: Visit www.queensbp.org/rsvp or call 718.286.2661

 

Time: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Location: Queens Borough Hall @ 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens

RSVP: Visit www.queensbp.org/rsvp or call 718.286.2661

 

Thursday, August 9            

Time:  6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Location: Sheltering Arms NY @ 1600 Central Avenue in Far Rockaway

RSVP: Call Germain Thompson at 646.300.0538

 

Friday, August 10              

Time: 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM

Location: Queens Library at Jackson Heights @ 35-51 81st Street in Jackson Heights

RSVP: Visit www.queensbp.org/rsvp or call 718.286.2661

 
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