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Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Expanding Access to Bereavement Leave

September 29, 2022

AB 1949 allows workers to take unpaid bereavement leave when a close family member dies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed AB 1949, guaranteeing that most workers across California can take at least five days of unpaid bereavement leave upon the death of a close family member. 

The bill, authored by Asm. Evan Low (D-Campbell), also ensures workers will be able to use other available paid leave, like sick, vacation or personal days, for bereavement. 

Under previous law, most workers in California had no right to bereavement leave — paid or unpaid — when a close family member died. In 2020, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, the state and nation’s largest network of crime victims, successfully advocated for legislation guaranteeing family members of homicide victims can take time off to access victim services or deal with legal issues. However, other employees who lost a family member — whether to homicide, illness or any other reason — still did not have the right to take time off to make funeral arrangements or to grieve. 

The new law makes it an illegal employment practice for an employer with at least five employees to deny a request by an eligible employee to take up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member, including a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or parent-in-law. It also requires the employer to maintain employee confidentiality relating to bereavement leave. AB 1949 was co-sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, California Employment Lawyers Association, Legal Aid at Work and Equal Rights Advocates.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:  “Californians who are suffering from the loss of a loved one deserve the right to take a few days to grieve without worrying about losing their job. This is particularly important for those communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent uptick in violent crime. Ensuring all people have the opportunity to heal is key to protecting the peace, stability and safety of our neighborhoods. Unaddressed grief can lead to longstanding mental health and emotional issues, as well as contact with the justice system – all of which can exacerbate cycles of crime.”

Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Reducing Barriers to Employment and Stability for People Living with an Old Conviction Record

September 29, 2022

AB 1924 will improve economic opportunity for Californians living with an old conviction record by streamlining the process for applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed into law a bill streamlining the process for applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, which can significantly increase a person’s employment prospects, make it easier to acquire professional licenses, and otherwise enable a person to successfully contribute to their families and communities. 

The bill, authored by Asm. Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and co-sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and Root and Rebound, prioritizes the state’s collective health and safety by reducing existing barriers to applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, a discretionary judicial relief that allows a court to find that a person has been rehabilitated and serves as a recommendation that the person be granted a pardon.

Streamlining access to a Certificate of Rehabilitation is critical given once that is granted it serves as a pardon application before the governor, furthering a person’s ability to successfully reintegrate into society. 

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice

“California laws that prevent people living with an old conviction record from positively contributing to their families and our communities make us all less safe. More than eight million Californians who have done their time and paid their debts are still being punished by a system that is preventing, not enhancing, public safety. After someone has completed their sentence and paid their debts, we cannot continue to allow old legal records to create barriers to opportunity that destabilize families, undermine our economy, and worsen racial injustices. By simplifying the process of applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, we are giving people living with an old conviction record an opportunity to significantly increase their employment prospects – which in turn prioritizes the overall safety of our community.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Fresh Start Act Eliminating Barriers to Expunging Old Conviction Records

September 29, 2022

SB 1106 ensures expungement petitions can’t be denied simply due to outstanding restitution debt

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed SB 1106, the Fresh Start Act, that will help people clear past criminal records by ensuring outstanding restitution and restitution fines are not a barrier to expungement. 

Prior to the Fresh Start Act becoming law, Californians with arrest and conviction records were frequently denied record sealing and expungement because they could not afford to pay outstanding restitution and restitution fines – leaving too many people trapped by fines and fees and unable to get a job to actually pay off those fines and fees. This perverse cycle exacerbates poverty and the criminalization of Black and Brown communities, who are disproportionately impacted by the justice system. Because successful reentry into society for formerly incarcerated people benefits the broader community, SB 1106 ensures that expungement petitions aren’t denied simply due to outstanding restitution debt.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice: 

“Old records that no longer reflect the reality of who someone is and what they have accomplished should not be a barrier to opportunity – this only hampers our ability to progress towards a better, safer future. With the Fresh Start Act, California is enacting a policy that prioritizes our collective health and safety by enabling every Californian to contribute to our state and its economy, not perpetuating the leftover harm from failed criminal justice system policies of the past that voters have repeatedly rejected. Policies that pave the way for a productive and complete return to civic life are an investment in public safety.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Sweeping Budget Trailer Bill Expanding Access to Victim Compensation for Survivors of Crime

September 29, 2022

AB 160 Expands Eligibility Criteria and Eases Financial Burden Faced by Victims in Aftermath of Harm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed into law AB 160, a budget trailer bill containing sweeping investments in ensuring all survivors of crime have access to the resources they need to heal. 

The bill, which incorporates many of the components of SB 993, introduced earlier this year by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), does several key things to expand the number of survivors eligible to access the state’s victim compensation program and ease the financial burden faced by survivors in the aftermath of harm having occurred, including increasing caps on reimbursable expenses and expanding eligibility for loss of income reimbursement. 

Under the bill, the overall cap for reimbursement would increase to $100,000, with caps on funeral and burial expenses increasing to $20,000, the cap on relocation expenses increasing to $7,500 and the cap on counseling costs being eliminated entirely. 

The bill also makes major changes to loss of income and support coverage, including allowing for reimbursement for loss of income and support even if the victim was unemployed at the time, making all secondary victims eligible for bereavement loss of income and allowing more types of documentation to verify income loss. 

The bill also makes all survivors of crime eligible for victim compensation regardless of whether a person is on probation or parole.

The signing of AB 160 into law by Gov. Newsom comes just several months after the governor signed AB 200, another budget trailer bill that contains $50 million to fund a first-of-its-kind-in-the-nation program providing direct cash assistance to survivors of crime through grants from the California Office of Emergency Services to local, community-based organizations that work to meet the needs of victims of crime. 

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:  “Fewer than one in five victims of crime report receiving the financial help, medical assistance and other healing services afforded to them under the state’s victim compensation program, and this critical new law will remove barriers to compensation, eliminate unjust eligibility restrictions and reduce red tape so survivors can get the help they need. Gov. Newsom is to be commended for recognizing that closing the gaps that have allowed too many victims to slip through the cracks without support, and ensuring all survivors get the services they need to heal will have a direct and profound impact on the safety and well being of our communities, particularly those most impacted by crime and violence.”

More than a Million Californians Gain Eligibility to Have Old Conviction Records Sealed After Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Landmark SB 731

September 29, 2022

California now has most expansive post-conviction relief law in nation’s history; law enhances public safety by enabling people living with a past conviction to positively contribute to our communities and economy

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California on Thursday became the first state in American history to allow almost all old convictions on a person’s criminal record to be permanently sealed, after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the landmark Senate Bill 731 into law. 

Well over a million Californians will now have the opportunity to be unburdened, in many cases for the first time in decades, by an old conviction record in the pursuit of gainful employment, stable housing, educational opportunities and other keys to public safety, family stability and economic security. 

“California now has the most comprehensive record sealing system in the nation,” said Jay Jordan, chief operating officer of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, the national sponsor organization of Californians for Safety and Justice, which has been at the forefront of some of the state’s most significant justice reforms during the past decade. “Millions of Californians will now be able to contribute to this state and its economy, freed from the thousands of counterproductive yet permanent restrictions to opportunity that serve only to destabilize families and undermine our collective safety.”

SB 731, authored by Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), creates a comprehensive process to electronically seal conviction and arrest records in the state of California once a person has fully completed their sentence and successfully gone four years without further contact with the justice system. Records of arrests that didn’t result in a conviction would also be electronically sealed.  

Records relating to registrable sex offenses cannot be sealed. And conviction histories still must be shared with law enforcement, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, school districts and other educational institutions, as well as others in high sensitivity contexts. 

“Eight million people in California are living with an arrest or conviction on their record. Preventing people with a past conviction from positively contributing to their communities is a leading driver of recidivism, destabilizes families, undermines our economy, and makes our communities less safe,” said Sen. Durazo. “The State of California and local governments invest billions of dollars into rehabilitative services, but if all we do is exclude people from any kind of opportunity to build a new life for themselves, we are simply wasting that money. Millions of Californians are unable to reach their full employment and economic potential due to having an old conviction or arrest record. SB 731 will give individuals the tools to turn the page on their past and an opportunity to build a new, better life while providing an economic boost in California, including an estimated $20 billion yearly increase to our state’s gross domestic product that it currently misses out on from widespread unemployment and under employment of those with a conviction history. I am grateful to Governor Newsom for signing this bill to help uplift millions of people and their communities.”

SB 731 built upon 2019’s AB 1076, authored by Asm. Phil Ting, (D-San Francisco), which allowed for the automatic sealing of old misdemeanor convictions, and felony convictions that didn’t result in prison incarceration. The new law extends automatic sealing to non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual felony convictions that did result in a sentence of prison incarceration and allows people convicted of more serious felonies to petition a judge to have their old conviction sealed. 

“SB 731 is about rehabilitation and supporting people to reach their full potential,” said Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J., the founder of Homeboy Industries, which sponsored a piece of legislation for the first time in the organization’s illustrious history. “We support progressive policies such as this, that reduce barriers to employment and housing, and increase opportunities for individuals to heal and transform their lives. Every human being deserves a second chance to rebuild, because people are much more than the worst thing they have ever done. And, this is a second chance felt not only by the person who has served their time,  and completed their sentence, it is also about their families and breaking generational cycles, leading to healthier and more just communities.”

The Alliance for Safety and Justice estimates at least 225,000 Californians will have an old conviction automatically sealed as a result of the new law, and more than a million Californians will be eligible to petition a judge. 

“Too many people are out of work because of past felony convictions. These unfair restrictions have held our community members back and limited their vision of success during reentry,” said Sam Lewis, executive director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “Our members simply want a chance to find better jobs that can turn into fruitful careers so they can be self-sufficient and provide for their families. SB 731 marks a fantastic opportunity for people coming home to prove themselves and have the hope one day they can seal their record.”

Nationally, 70 million Americans are living with an old criminal conviction or record that can permanently block them from getting jobs, housing, educational opportunities and other keys to attaining economic security and family stability. This is true despite the fact that many people with convictions were never incarcerated and have been crime free for years or even decades. Yet they still face nearly 50,000 different legal restrictions that can restrict economic mobility and permanently push people to the margins of society. 

“With the signing of SB 731 into law, we have sent a strong message to the currently and formerly incarcerated communities in California,” said Charles Vignola, public policy and community engagement manager for the Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership. “We have told these groups that an individual is more than their conviction, and that one can move beyond the labels traditionally assigned to those who have been incarcerated. We look forward to continuing to develop pathways to full community engagement for every Californian, and celebrate this success alongside the entire reentry community.”

In California alone, eight million people – one in five state residents – are living with a past conviction or record. As a result, they face nearly 5,000 legal restrictions, many of which are employment related and 73 percent of which are permanent. 

“Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None are proud co-sponsors of SB 731. We are grateful for Gov. Newsom’s signature on this important legislation and to Sen. Durazo for her tireless leadership in the California legislature,” said Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and founder of All of Us or None. “This bill is an integral step forward and we are determined to continue breaking down the barriers that stand between our people and true justice, equity and redemption.”

Eight in 10 people with a past conviction say they have experienced hurdles to success, including barriers to job opportunities, housing, education, adopting or fostering a child, volunteering at their child’s school or joining its PTA, as well as accessing crime victim services.

“The passage of SB 731 is a common sense step that will address some of the ongoing harm from over incarceration in California,” said Khalid Alexander, executive director of Pillars of the Community. “SB 731 prioritizes safety and community over draconian punishment and economic barriers. Pillars of the Community is proud to have played a role in this monumental bill.”

The new law will provide a much-needed and major economic boost to California, curbing the estimated $20 billion in yearly gross domestic product that the state currently loses due to the widespread unemployment and underemployment of people living with a past conviction.

In conjunction with SB 731’s introduction last year, Californians for Safety and Justice and UNITE-LA released a report, “Getting Back to Work: Revamping the Economy by Removing Past Records,” providing a clear picture of the scale of economic harm caused by these barriers faced by people living with an old conviction.

The report shows that in 2018:

  • 2.5 million working-age Californians were living with a felony record
  • The state lost $20 billion (in 2021 dollars) in gross domestic product – the total value of goods produced and services provided – due to the barriers preventing people living with a past felony legal record from gaining full employment and contributing to the economy  
  • The Los Angeles region alone lost more than $9 billion from their GDP, and eight Bay Area counties lost over $4 billion from their economic output.
  • Five counties in the central valley region lost nearly $1.5 billion in GDP
  • Sacramento and three neighboring counties lost nearly $800 million from their GDP

“This law will end the systematic disenfranchisement and employment barriers faced by millions of Californians living with an old conviction record that disproportionately affects people of color and costs the state approximately $20 billion every year in economic activity,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Rather than keeping us safe, the thousands of permanent post-conviction restrictions faced by Californians living with an old conviction record make it harder for them to rebuild productive and full lives.” 

SB 731 was sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, Homeboy industries – the first time in the storied organization’s history that it sponsored legislation – Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Time for Change Foundation, A New Way of Life, Pillars of the Community and the Los Angeles Regional Re-entry Project. Earlier this year, more than 90 support organizations sent a letter to state legislators calling for the bill’s passage.

Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Expanding Occupational Opportunities for People Living with an Old Conviction Record

September 27, 2022

New California law will ensure people living with an old arrest or conviction record have a fair chance to access state-run caregiving jobs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed into law a bill that will reduce application barriers for people living with an old conviction record seeking community care licensure from the California Department of Social Services. 

Assembly Bill 1720, authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) and co-sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice and the Occupational Licensing Coalition, streamlines the licensure process to ensure qualified people living with an old conviction record are not prohibited from securing employment. The new law does not make significant changes to the procedure for licensing foster family homes, certified family homes or resource family homes of a licensed foster family agency.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice: 

“We applaud Gov. Newsom for prioritizing California’s collective health and safety by enabling every Californian to contribute to our state and its economy. AB 1720 is a major win for all Californians. Our state – like so many across the nation – is dealing with a severe shortage of care workers and it is in no one’s interest to block qualified, rehabilitated people from access to these jobs. By giving people living with an old conviction record a fair chance at state-run caregiving jobs, we can increase economic stability and support a critical sector desperate for qualified workers. Old records that no longer reflect the reality of who someone is and what they have accomplished should not be a barrier to opportunity for families and communities – this only hampers our ability to progress towards a better, safer future.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Expanding Parental Rights and Access to Information in Police Investigations

August 30, 2022

Curtis’ Law will ensure families receive personal effects and all relevant information

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law a bill requiring the immediate family of a child killed in a crime be given full access to records detailing the investigation of the incident.

Authored by Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Merced), and sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – the largest network of crime victims in California – SB 1268, also known as Curtis’ Law, requires immediate family members of a deceased minor be allowed to inspect investigative information and records concerning the child’s death held by law enforcement agencies, as well as require any law enforcement agency holding such records to notify the child’s parent or other relative to the existence of the records, within a specified time period. The bill also requires criminal investigative information and criminal intelligence information be made available to the immediate family members of a child whose death is or has been investigated by a law enforcement agency.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“Gov. Gavin Newsom deserves to be commended for signing this critical piece of legislation into law, and ensuring the majority of survivors of crime and violence will no longer be ignored and excluded from a system that isn’t built to help those who need it most. No family suffering the loss of a child should ever have their pain and trauma compounded by having to face hurdles just to obtain relevant case information, and we thank Gov. Newsom for implementing approaches to community safety that prioritize the needs of survivors of crime.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Expanding Parental Rights and Access to Information in Police Investigations

August 29, 2022

Curtis’ Law will ensure families receive personal effects and all relevant information

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law a bill requiring the immediate family of a child killed in a crime be given full access to records detailing the investigation of the incident.

Authored by Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Merced), and sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – the largest network of crime victims in California – SB 1268, also known as Curtis’ Law, requires immediate family members of a deceased minor be allowed to inspect investigative information and records concerning the child’s death held by law enforcement agencies, as well as require any law enforcement agency holding such records to notify the child’s parent or other relative to the existence of the records, within a specified time period. The bill also requires criminal investigative information and criminal intelligence information be made available to the immediate family members of a child whose death is or has been investigated by a law enforcement agency. 

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice: 

“Gov. Gavin Newsom deserves to be commended for signing this critical piece of legislation into law, and ensuring the majority of survivors of crime and violence will no longer be ignored and excluded from a system that isn’t built to help those who need it most. No family suffering the loss of a child should ever have their pain and trauma compounded by having to face hurdles just to obtain relevant case information, and we thank Gov. Newsom for implementing approaches to community safety that prioritize the needs of survivors of crime.”

Statement from Californians for Safety and Justice Regarding Failed Effort to Recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón

August 15, 2022

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters on Monday announced backers of an effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón had failed to submit the requisite number of signatures to qualify the recall for the ballot. 

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“This was always a politicized effort that had nothing to do with what actually creates safety in our communities, and my hope is that in Los Angeles and across the state we can get back to focusing on the things we know work to make our communities safer, healthier and more whole, and which California voters continue to overwhelmingly support. It is imperative for the long term-health and safety of all of our communities that we address the root causes and prevent crime and harm from occurring in the first place. We need immediate and targeted investments in community-based initiatives that are best equipped to work with our most vulnerable populations. And we need to prioritize investment in proven, community-based initiatives like violence intervention, assertive outreach, youth employment and mentoring programming, community-based victim support and trauma recovery centers.”

Bill To Expand Occupational Opportunities for People with Old Conviction Records Approved by Senate Public Safety Committee

June 30, 2022

AB 1720 would ensure people living with an old arrest or conviction record have a fair chance to apply for state-run caregiving jobs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s Senate Public Safety Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that creates a fair chance for people with old arrest and conviction records to access caregiving and other jobs governed by the Department of Social Services (DSS).

AB 1720, authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) and co-sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice and the Occupational Licensing Coalition, would streamline the licensure process to ensure qualified people living with an old conviction record are not prohibited from securing employment. The bill would not make significant changes to the procedure for licensing foster family homes, certified family homes or resource family homes of a licensed foster family agency.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“If we as a society believe in a person’s ability to rehabilitate themselves and return to the community, we cannot continue blocking them from opportunities to do so. More than eight million Californians who have done their time and paid their debts are still being punished by a system that is preventing, not enhancing, public safety. AB 1720 is a major win for all Californians. Our state – like so many across the nation – is dealing with a severe shortage of care workers and it is in no one’s interest to block qualified, rehabilitated people from access to these jobs.  Removing employment restrictions on people with past convictions will help our economic recovery, improve public safety, and support these critical areas of our economy that are in desperate need of workers.”

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Senate Public Safety Committee Approves Bill to Reduce Employment Barriers for People Living with an Old Conviction Record

June 29, 2022

AB 1924 would improve economic opportunity for Californians living with an old conviction record by streamlining the process for applying for a Certificate of Rehabilitation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Senate’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved AB 1924, a bill that would streamline the process for applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, which can significantly increase a person’s employment prospects, make it easier to acquire professional licenses and otherwise enable a person to successfully contribute to their families and communities.

The bill, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and co-sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Root and Rebound, prioritizes the state’s collective health and safety by reducing existing barriers to applying for a certificate of rehabilitation, a discretionary judicial relief that allows a court to find that a person has been rehabilitated and serves as a recommendation that the person be granted a pardon.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“California needs to focus on getting people back to work, creating jobs, and job training – not perpetuating the leftover harm from failed criminal justice system policies of the past that voters have repeatedly rejected. The reality is, all Californians pay an economic cost when we limit opportunities for people with old conviction records. We applaud the Senate’s Public Safety Committee for recognizing that California laws that prevent people living with a past conviction from positively contributing to our communities make us all less safe.”

Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee Approves Bill to Expand Access to Bereavement Leave

June 29, 2022

AB 1949 will allow workers to take unpaid bereavement leave when a close family member dies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee on Tuesday passed AB 1949, which would guarantee workers of employers with five or more employees can take at least five days of unpaid bereavement leave. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), would also ensure workers could use other available paid leave, like sick, vacation or personal days, for bereavement.

Under current law, most workers in California have no right to bereavement leave — paid or unpaid — when a close family member dies. In 2020, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, the state and nation’s largest network of crime victims, successfully advocated for legislation guaranteeing family members of homicide victims can take time off to access victim services or deal with legal issues. However, other employees who lose a family member — whether to homicide, illness or any other reason — still do not have the right to take time off to make funeral arrangements or to grieve.

AB 1949 would make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant a request by an eligible employee to take up to 5 days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member, including a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law. The bill would also require the employer to maintain employee confidentiality relating to bereavement leave. The bill is co-sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, California Employment Lawyers Association, Legal Aid at Work and Equal Rights Advocates.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“All workers deserve the right to take time off to grieve a loved one’s death without the risk of being fired for it. This is particularly important in the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and violent crime because a key piece of protecting the peace, stability and safety of these neighborhoods is ensuring survivors have the opportunity to start to heal.”

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Groundbreaking Legislation to Electronically Seal Old Conviction Records Approved by State Assembly

June 29, 2022

Preventing people living with a past conviction from positively contributing to our communities undermines economy, make us all less safe

Sacramento, Calif. – A groundbreaking bill authorizing the California Department of Justice to electronically seal conviction and arrest records for Californians who remain free from contact with the justice system for four years after fully completing their sentence passed in the state Assembly late Wednesday. The bill will now return to the Senate for concurrence before heading to the governor’s desk for signature.

Senate Bill 731, authored by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) will create a comprehensive process to electronically seal conviction and arrest records in the state of California once a person has fully completed their sentence and successfully gone four years without further contact with the justice system. Records of arrests that didn’t result in a conviction would also be electronically sealed. 

“If SB 731 is signed into law, California will have the most comprehensive expungement system in the nation,” said Jay Jordan, chief operating officer of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, the national sponsor organization of Californians for Safety and Justice, which has been at the forefront of some of the state’s most significant justice reforms during the past decade. “Millions of Californians will now be able to contribute to this state and its economy, freed from the thousands of counterproductive yet permanent restrictions to opportunity that serve only to destabilize families and undermine our collective safety.”

Nationally, 70 million Americans are living with an old criminal conviction or record that can permanently block them from getting jobs, housing, educational opportunities, and other keys to attaining economic security and family stability. This is true despite the fact that many people with convictions were never incarcerated and have been crime free for years or even decades. Yet they still face nearly 50,000 different legal restrictions that can restrict economic mobility and permanently push people to the margins of society.

In Californian alone, eight million people– one in five state residents – are living with a past conviction or record. As a result, they face nearly 5,000 legal restrictions, many of which are employment related and 73 percent of which are permanent.

Eight in 10 people with a past conviction say they have experienced  hurdles to success, including barriers to job opportunities, housing, education, adopting or fostering a child, volunteering at their child’s school or joining its PTA, as well as accessing crime victim services.

The bill would also provide a much-needed and major economic boost to California in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, curbing the estimated $20 billion in yearly gross domestic product that the state currently loses due to the widespread unemployment and underemployment of people living with a past conviction.

In conjunction with the bill’s introduction last year, Californians for Safety and Justice and UNITE-LA released a report, “Getting Back to Work: Revamping the Economy by Removing Past Records,” providing a clear picture of the scale of economic harm caused by these barriers faced by people living with an old conviction.

The report shows that in 2018:

  • 2.5 million working-age Californians were living with a felony record
  • The state lost $20 billion (in 2021 dollars) in gross domestic product – the total value of goods produced and services provided – due to the barriers preventing people living with a past felony legal record from gaining full employment and contributing to the economy 
  • The Los Angeles region alone lost more than $9 billion from their GDP, and eight Bay Area counties lost over $4 billion from their economic output.
  • Five counties in the central valley region lost nearly $1.5 billion in GDP
  • Sacramento and three neighboring counties lost nearly $800 million from their GDP

“This bill will end the systematic disenfranchisement and employment barriers faced by millions of Californians living with an old conviction record that disproportionately affects people of color and costs the state approximately $20 billion every year in economic activity,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Rather than keeping us safe, the thousands of permanent post-conviction restrictions faced by Californians living with an old conviction record make it harder for them to rebuild productive and full lives.”

The bill is sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, Homeboy industries – the first time in the storied organization’s history it is sponsoring legislation – Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Time for Change Foundation, Pillars of the Community and the Los Angeles Regional Re-entry Project. Earlier this year, more than 70 supporters sent a letter to state legislators calling for the bill’s passage.

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Assembly Approves Legislation Expanding Parental Rights and Access to Information in Police Investigations

June 29, 2022

Proposed Curtis’ Law would ensure families receive personal effects and all relevant information

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A bill requiring the immediate family of a child killed in a crime to be given full access to records detailing the investigation of the incident passed in California’s State Assembly late Wednesday and now returns to the Senate for concurrence.

Authored by Sen. Anna Caballero (D- Merced), and sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – the largest network of crime victims in California – SB 1268, also known as Curtis’ Law, requires that immediate family members of a deceased minor be allowed to inspect investigative information and records concerning the child’s death held by law enforcement agencies, as well as require any law enforcement agency holding such records to notify the child’s parent or other relative to the existence of the records, within a specified time period. The bill also requires criminal investigative information and criminal intelligence information be made available to the immediate family members of a child whose death is or has been investigated by a law enforcement agency.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice: “We can no longer allow the majority of California’s survivors of crime and violence to be ignored and excluded from a system not built to help those who need it most. For far too long, survivors of crime from those communities most impacted by crime and violence every day haven’t even been considered real survivors, viewed instead with contempt under the false assumption that somehow we must be culpable for our own victimization, simply because of what we look like and where we come from. Families suffering the loss of a child should not face hurdles to obtain relevant case information – which only serves to compound the pain and trauma of the sudden loss of a loved one.”

California Budget Reflects Commitment to Addressing Rising Violence by Investing in Crime Prevention and Healing

June 29, 2022

2022-23 Fiscal Year Budget Contains Hundreds of Millions of Dollars of Investments in Treatment, Re-entry and Victim Services; Record $161 Million in Prop. 47 Savings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Californians for Safety and Justice, the state’s leading justice reform advocacy organization, lauded the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget approved by the state legislature Wednesday for seeking to address rising violence by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in crime and harm prevention programs and in programs to help victims of crime heal.

Included in the $300 billion budget is at least $84 million in investments to expand and enhance services for victims of crime, including a one-time $50 million allocation to create a first-of-its-kind-in-the-nation pilot program providing direct and flexible cash assistance to survivors of crime and a $27 million allocation to support Trauma Recovery Centers statewide and to create satellite offices in underserved and rural locations in Northern and Central California.

The budget also contains more than $260 million worth of investments to strengthen and grow the state’s re-entry services infrastructure, including a $120 million investment over three years to expand community re-entry centers, a $52.5 million investment to fund workforce development and a flexible cash assistance program for people returning home after a period of incarceration and a $31.8 million investment over three years in the Returning Home Well program, which provides emergency transitional housing services for folks recently released from prison.

The budget also contains significant investments in increasing the availability of drug and mental health treatment services, including more than $162 million ongoing to expand the Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program, and $100 million for the provision of mental health services for people involved with the justice system in Los Angeles County. These investments are on top of the $1.5 billion previously proposed by the governor to expand clinically-enhanced bridge housing solutions for people experiencing both homelessness and severe mental illness.

Additionally, the budget contains a record $161.1 million in annual Proposition 47 savings, bringing the total savings since the law went into effect in 2015 to $608 million – money that is reallocated back to local communities to fund programs that address the root causes of crime.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice: “Gov. Newsom and our legislative leaders are to be commended for agreeing upon a budget for the next fiscal year that prioritizes comprehensive safety solutions. We are in a moment of crisis, with the pandemic having destabilized individuals, families and entire communities. As a result, homicide and other forms of violence, particularly gun violence, are on the rise again after many years of steady declines. The only effective way to respond is by prioritizing the immediate needs of communities and preventing crime and harm in the first place. We know what works and what doesn’t to protect our neighborhoods from harm. Research backs up decades of lived experience that over-reliance on enforcement and incarceration only exacerbates the conditions that create violence and does nothing to actually prevent crime. This can’t be about politics. Ending cycles of crime require us to directly address the root causes. The state’s investments will create opportunities to prevent violence and harm and keep our communities safe.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Clarifying When Sentence Enhancements Can Be Applied

October 9, 2021

S.B. 81 Aligned With Recommendations From Committee on Revision of the Penal Code to Improve Sentencing Fairness

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 8, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill clarifying how and when judges may apply sentencing enhancements. S.B. 81, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice and others, will provide judges clear guidance on when and how to exercise their discretion to dismiss enhancements, something that has been done inconsistently because of the lack of clarity in the law. The bill codifies into law a recommendation by the Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code to improve fairness in sentencing and help ensure that penalties more closely reflect the circumstances of the crime.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“Unnecessary sentence enhancements do nothing to prevent crime and harm from occurring in the first place, nor do they help protect the safety and well-being of our communities. Californians from across the political spectrum continue to demand the justice system prioritize prevention over harsh sentencing and ineffective incarceration, and Gov. Gavin Newsom should be commended for signing SB 81, which is reflective of what voters want and is aligned with what science and data show are the best approaches for enhancing public safety.”

New Federal Crime Data Underscores Urgency of Increased Investments in Community-Based Crime Prevention

September 27, 2021 | Will Matthews

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sept. 27, 2021

CONTACT: Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – New data released today by the F.B.I. shows a national uptick in violent crime in 2020 versus 2019, largely driven by conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Property crime rates dropped nationally for the 18th consecutive year.

In California, which has implemented a series of landmark criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing ineffective incarceration and increasing investments in community-based crime prevention, saw no increase in its overall violent crime rate. Statewide property crime rates decreased by more than eight percent. There was an increase in homicides, heavily borne by communities that have long experienced the harms of violence and underinvestment and were disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice.

“This data once again shows that increased incarceration does not equate with greater levels of safety and well-being, especially for those communities historically most impacted by crime and violence. But there is no question things like stay-at-home orders, isolation and job loss have contributed to a crisis of rising violence that demands an effective and community-based response. We need immediate and targeted investments in community-based initiatives best equipped to work with our most vulnerable populations. And we need to create new funding for programs proven to prevent violence and harm like community-led street intervention and crisis response teams, mental health and substance abuse treatment, violence intervention, assertive outreach, youth employment and mentoring programming, community-based victim support and trauma recovery centers. We have made significant strides in recent years in California transforming the justice system into one that prioritizes the needs of communities and prevents crime and harm from occurring in the first place. It is imperative for the long term health and safety of all our communities that we address the root causes so we can prevent this crisis from continuing to spiral out of control.”

Californians Remain Strongly in Favor of Criminal Justice Reform, According to New Survey of Likely Voters

August 6, 2021 | Will Matthews

Wide Majorities Continue to Reject Failed Approaches of Past; Believe Prevention, Not Incarceration, is Key to Addressing Rising Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 6, 2021

CONTACT:

Will Matthews, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – An overwhelming number of likely California voters continue to support policies to reform the criminal justice system and prioritize crime prevention over incarceration, according to a new survey conducted by David Binder Research and made public this week.

While there is growing concern among voters about rising violence, the survey reveals voters are also clear that mental illness, homelessness and the rapid increase in the cost of living are the main drivers, and that punishment through long prison sentences are not an effective response.

“Voters continue to recognize that the failed ‘tough on crime’ approaches of the past were failures, they wasted billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars and they did not make us safer,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their neighborhoods and communities and this survey makes clear that voters understand the best way to achieve that is by investing in community-based programs proven to help prevent harm from occurring in the first place.”

According to the survey of 1,000 voters likely to vote in the November 2022 election, 65 percent of voters think that crime is getting worse, with many voters expressing most concern about violent crime. 

Strong majorities of voters – including two in three across both parties – think the three things most responsible for rising crime are untreated mental illness, the rise in the cost of living and increased poverty, and homelessness.

By a more than 2-to-1 margin, voters believe investing in rehabilitation, mental health treatment and drug treatment is a more effective way of preventing future crime than punishment through incarceration. And a majority of California voters prefer shortening prison sentences and spending more money on crime prevention and rehabilitation over sentences that keep people in prison for as long as possible, according to the survey.

Additionally, and in line with voter opinion on what contributes to crime and the best ways to address it, support is high for policies to expand treatment, rehabilitation, trauma recovery, and community-based violence prevention.

At least eight in 10 support expanding police community engagement strategies, expanding trauma recovery centers for victims of violent crime, increasing community-based violence prevention, and expanding community-based victim services. Over seven in 10 support creating a 9-1-1 for mental health crisis response, requiring treatment for those who commit crimes as a result of substance abuse or mental illness, and reducing sentences for those who participate in rehabilitation and treatment programs.

Each policy tested has majority support across party lines.

As Urgent Need Grows, California’s Largest Crime Victims Organization Calls on Cities and Counties to Use Federal American Rescue Plan Dollars for Direct Cash Assistance to Victims of Violence

July 14, 2021

Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice Announces “We Are Survivors” Campaign That Will Provide $100,000 Directly to Victims, Demands Local Leaders Match Investment 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 14, 2021

CONTACT: Californians for Safety and Justice; [email protected] 

OAKLAND, Calif. – As California reopens and grapples with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly a rise in violence spurred by the worsened economic and social circumstances of the past year — thousands of crime survivors across the state demanded on Wednesday that cities and counties make immediate investments in direct cash assistance to crime victims and their families, especially survivors in those communities most impacted by violence and harm.

Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ), the largest organization of crime victims in California, with over 10,000 members who have survived crime and violence, also announced on Wednesday a new “We Are Survivors” grant program that will put money directly in the hands of survivors in desperate need of support and services to help them heal from their trauma. As part of the campaign, CSSJ is demanding that city councils and boards of supervisors across the state use some of the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing to local governments as part of the American Rescue Plan for direct cash assistance to survivors that matches or exceeds the $100,000 CSSJ is awarding to leading, community-based survivor-led organizations up and down the state.

“The justice system has and is failing to meet the needs of victims from Black, Brown and other underserved communities, who comprise the majority of California’s survivors of crime and violence,” said Tina Rodriguez, California state director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “Instead of continuing to be ignored by a criminal justice system that was never built to help those who need it the most, we’re going to increase safety and wellness in our communities by making sure survivors get the support they need. It is crucial that survivor-led organizations are able to provide direct, local, community-based support that is divorced from law enforcement offices.”    

The $100,000 will be dispersed to eight different organizations chosen because they are led by survivors of crime and have a documented successful history of providing direct assistance to vulnerable populations in need. The recipient organizations will then provide resources directly to victims who have experienced violence including sexual assault, domestic violence, gun violence and more. Support will extend to surviving family members and/or individuals who have been directly impacted by an incident like a neighbor or member of the household. The money can be used for things like funeral and burial costs, home or vehicle modifications for victims who become disabled, medical treatment, mental health services and other things key to ensuring a survivor can heal. 

The grant recipients are:

  • Life After Uncivil Ruthless Acts (L.A.U.R.A.), which supports survivors of violence in South Central Los Angeles
  • Champions in Service, which provides wrap around services to people in the greater Los Angeles area who have been marginalized by poverty, drug addiction and trauma
  • Take a Stand in Fresno, Calif., which does community outreach aimed at eradicating violence by empowering individuals and families and providing alternatives to at-risk youth
  • Kelly’s Angels Foundation in Stockton, Calif., which provides services for children impacted by homicide 
  • Community Youth Center of San Francisco, which encourages diverse populations of high need young people to succeed
  • Us 4 Us Bay Area, which uplifts people through community action and violence prevention based on knowledge of self-resources and mentorship
  • Broken by Violence in the East San Francisco Bay Area, which provides an array of support services to people impacted by violence
  • Jr.’s Trauma Care Initiative in San Diego, which helps people impacted by violence regain purpose in their lives and treatment for traumatic experiences.

The grantee organizations have begun distributing funds to those in need, and will continue through the summer. In some of the first support extended through the We Are Survivors program, Take A Stand in Fresno enabled Regina Williams of Fresno, whose son was killed in a shooting earlier this month, to get away for a few days to grieve and begin to heal. 

“Survivors from communities most harmed and least helped know best what can make our families and our communities safer,” said Janice Sumler, the founder and director of Take a Stand. “We are proud and grateful to participate in this groundbreaking initiative that will help make sure people with the greatest need, like Regina and her family, get the healing and support they deserve.”

According to a 2019 statewide survey of survivors of crime, about one in three Californians have been a victim of crime in the last 10 years. Of those victims, less than one in five report receiving financial assistance, counseling, medical assistance or other types of healing services that can help someone recover from the trauma of a crime. Only 14 percent of crime victims feel “very supported” by the criminal justice system after experiencing a crime, according to the survey. 

“Crime survivors in California – particularly those from communities that are most harmed by violence but least helped – are in crisis,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “For the past year, we have endured new and huge barriers to support as well as a national uptick in certain kinds of crime, compounding the effects of decades of failure to advance real safety solutions in poor communities and communities of color. But California has an opportunity now to right the wrongs the system has created and to listen to all survivors, trust the people who are most harmed, and respond directly to survivors’ needs.”

Californians for Safety and Justice Lauds Unprecedented Investment in Proven Crime Prevention Strategies in Budget Agreement

July 13, 2021

More Than $500 Million Dedicated to Preventing Harm and Violence from Occurring in First Place, Meeting Needs of Victims
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
July 13, 2021
 
CONTACT: Californians for Safety and Justice; [email protected]
 
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Californians for Safety and Justice, the state’s leading criminal justice reform
organization, on Tuesday commended Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing into law a fiscal year 2021-2022
budget that includes unprecedented investments in proven crime prevention strategies and meeting the
needs of victims of crime. 
 
The budget, which Newsom signed into law Monday evening, comes as the state grapples with an uptick
in violence resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic’s destabilization of individuals, families and entire
communities. 
 
Contained in the budget framework is a $200 million, one-time general fund allotment over the next
three years for the California Violence Intervention and Prevention (CalVIP) grant program that helps
reduce gun violence. The budget framework also includes a $175 million general fund investment in
various programs that help meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, human
trafficking and forced sterilization. More than $50 million has been dedicated for reentry supports such as
prison to employment opportunities and removal of barriers for successful re-entry. 
 
And the budget contains a record $116.2 million in savings from continued reductions in state prison
incarceration as a result of Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot initiative approved overwhelmingly by voters
that reduced the penalty for petty theft and possession of drugs for personal use from a felony to a
misdemeanor. The Proposition 47 savings are reallocated back to local communities for mental health
and addiction treatment programs, truancy prevention programs and trauma recovery services for victims
proven to prevent crime from occurring in the first place. 
 
The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and
Justice:
 
“Our communities are hurting and in urgent need of support. These investments are critical as we begin
to address the way that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated decades of underinvestment in some
communities and caused a rise in violence. During the past decade we’ve taken significant steps toward
transforming our justice system into one that prioritizes the needs of communities and prevents crime
and harm from occurring in the first place. We’ve known for a long time what works and what doesn’t to
protect our neighborhoods from harm and now we have the research to back up our decades of lived
experience showing that over-reliance on incarceration does nothing to prevent crime and in fact only
compounds the conditions that fuel violence. Gov. Newsom and the Legislature should be commended for
passing a budget that prioritizes immediate and targeted investments in community-based initiatives that
are best equipped to work with our most vulnerable populations. The need for funding for proven,
community-based programs like violence intervention, assertive outreach, youth employment and mentoring programs, community-based victim support and trauma recovery services has never been
more acute. We thank the governor and our legislative leaders for seeking to meet this moment by
providing the support and resources our communities so desperately need.”