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QUEENS, NY (TIP): 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 

“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 


*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).


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