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Legislation Introduced To Automate Arrest And Conviction Relief

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

SAN FRANCISCO—On Thursday, March 7, District Attorney George Gascón and Assemblymember Phil Ting revealed the introduction of AB 1076, a revolutionary effort to efficiently automate arrest and conviction relief at the California Department of Justice.  According to a press release from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, with technology, the policy will automate the process for those who are already entitled to record clearance relief under existing laws. By eliminating barriers to successful reentry, AB 1076 will provide millions of Californians with renewed employment, housing and education opportunities.

“Millions of Californians are living in a paper prison,” said District Attorney George Gascón.  “A huge number of people are entitled to relief that they’ll never realize because they have to jump through hoops to get it. The system has erected bureaucratic barriers that disproportionately impact communities of color, barriers that undermine the likelihood of successful reentry by limiting access to employment and housing.  With a few key strokes California can enhance public safety and equity while reducing recidivism and taxpayer spending.  AB 1076 will not only modernize our system of justice, it’s a model for the justice system.”

“Everybody deserves a second chance.  We must open doors for those facing housing and employment barriers and use available technology to clear arrest and criminal records for individuals already eligible for relief.  There is a great cost to our economy and society when we shut out job-seeking workers looking for a better future,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), author of AB 1076.

In California, eight million residents have criminal convictions on their records impacting their ability to find work and housing, secure public benefits, or even get admitted to college. Millions have old arrests on their record that never resulted in a conviction, but remain as obstacles for employment. It has been estimated that the U.S. loses roughly $65 billion per year in terms of gross domestic product due to employment losses among people with criminal records.

The use of criminal records in employment, housing and education decisions is widespread.  “Nearly 90% of employers, 80% of landlords, and 60% of colleges screen applicants’ criminal records.  The Survey of California Victims and Populations Affected by Mental Health, Substance Issues, and Convictions found that 76% of individuals with a criminal conviction report instability in finding a job or housing, obtaining a license, paying for fines or fees, and having health issues. A National Institute of Justice study found that having a criminal record reduced the chance of getting a job offer or callback by 50%,” said the SF District Attorney’s Office in a press release.

The current law allows individuals to clear arrests that did not result in a conviction, and to clear convictions that are eligible for dismissal by petitioning the court. Less than 20 percent of eligible individuals have been estimated to obtain record clearance. Under that current petition-based record clearance model, each record costs the system $3,757, whereas an automated system costs 4 cents per record.

AB 1076 automates arrest and conviction relief for individuals already eligible under current California laws, leveraging technology to comprehensively and efficiently update criminal records that are disseminated by the California Department of Justice for employment, housing, education, and licensing purposes.  The legislation automatically clears records for arrests that did not result in conviction after the statute of limitations has passed, and automatically clears convictions on local sentences to probation and jail once the sentence is completed for persons who have remained crime free. This bill will not impact firearms ownership eligibility.

AB 1076 will not require any action from a petitioner, reducing major barriers to employment and housing opportunities for millions of Californians.

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