Cost, Bureaucratic Hurdles Preventing Over One Million Californians From Reducing Low-Level Felonies to Misdemeanors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 26, 2019

CONTACT: Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; will@safeandjust.org

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday passed a bill that would help achieve the will of California voters by automatically changing old low-level felony convictions that were reclassified to misdemeanors under voter-approved Proposition 47.

Assembly Bill 972, authored by Asm. Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, would utilize technology to help the California Department of Justice automatically identify each conviction eligible for reduction on the records of people in the state. Once confirmed as eligible, those convictions would then be automatically changed, enabling more than a million Californians to get out from underneath the nearly 5,000 legal restrictions the state places on people with a past conviction. These restrictions block people from jobs, housing, educational opportunities and other key path to regaining stability.

Jay Jordan, director the #TimeDone campaign for Californians for Safety and Justice: “We applaud Assemblyman Bonta and his colleagues for advancing this important reform for California. We need to break down the barriers to stability facing more than eight million Californians – an astounding one in five state residents – who are living with an old conviction or record. The majority of these legal restrictions serve no safety purpose and destabilize families and communities, actually undermining public safety and the economy. People who are eligible for a record change under Prop. 47 should not have to navigate a costly and wasteful maze of bureaucratic hurdles to get relief. When we allow people to earn redemption, we invest in making our state healthier and safer for all.”

Currently, if someone wants to a record change under Proposition 47, they must follow an arduous, bureaucratic application process that requires appearing in court in the jurisdiction where the conviction was received, and oftentimes necessitates hiring a lawyer. AB 972 would ease this bureaucratic maze for California residents.

Approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2014, Proposition 47 changed the penalty for petty theft and simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, a move that has already saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars through reduced incarceration that are being reinvested in community-based crime prevention programs. Proposition 47 also applied the change retroactively, meaning people with felony convictions for petty theft or possession of drugs for personal use could have those convictions reduced to misdemeanors.

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