New Report Provides Clear Picture of Economic Harm of Pushing People Living with an Old Conviction Record Out of Workforce; California Loses Approximately $20 Billion Annually
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2021
CONTACT: Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]
OAKLAND, Calif – Sen. María Elena Durazo on Wednesday introduced a groundbreaking piece of criminal justice reform legislation that would effectively seal old legal records in California. It would end the systemic disenfranchisement and employment barriers faced by millions of Californians living with a past conviction that disproportionately affects people of color and costs the state approximately $20 billion every year in economic activity.
The bill, S.B. 731, would create a comprehensive process to automatically seal conviction and arrest records in the state of California once a person has fully completed their sentence and successfully gone two years without further contact with the justice system. Records of arrests that didn’t result in a conviction would also be automatically sealed.
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.
The bill is being 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 and the Los Angeles Regional Re-entry Project.
“Preventing people with an old conviction record from ever being able to regain full citizenship status after fully completing their sentence and paying their debts makes us all less safe,” said Jay Jordan, vice president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, the national sponsor organization of Californians for Safety and Justice. “We no longer can afford to undermine the strength of our state’s economy, destabilize families and communities, and maintain policies at odds with California’s core values of justice and fairness. We must enact new policies that prioritize our collective health and safety by enabling every Californian to contribute to our state and its economy, not perpetuate the leftover harm from failed criminal justice system policies of the past that voters have repeatedly rejected.”
In conjunction with the bill’s introduction, Californians for Safety and Justice and UNITE-LA released a new 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
“Our conviction & arrest records system forces the people who go through it – our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters – to face obstacles for the rest of their lives, in every aspect of their lives,” said Senator Durazo. “The completion of a prison sentence should pave the way for a complete return to participate fully in society. But for millions of Californians, their conviction history turns into a lifelong sentence of limited access to employment, housing, education, and the ability to live a full, normal life and provide for their families.”
“Rather than keeping us safe, long-lasting post-conviction restrictions make it harder for Californians to rebuild productive and full lives,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Sealing or ‘sunsetting’ old conviction records aligns with California voters’ repeated decisions to abandon failed criminal justice system policies that are responsible for the expansion of these old legal records, keeping the state on a path toward achieving real safety.”