Los Angeles and San Joaquin Counties Using Algorithms to Clear 54,000 Marijuana Convictions

Prosecutors in the two California counties are using the same technology employed in San Francisco County earlier this year.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Joaquin counties are partnering with a technology organization to quickly reduce or clear more than 54,000 cannabis convictions.

California voters legalized adult use marijuana by approving Proposition 64 in 2016. The law also enabled people who had been convicted of certain low-level marijuana possession charges to petition to have those convictions eliminated.

Officials found that those petitions from eligible individuals were not arriving in large numbers, presumably due to a lack of awareness or the burdens associated with filing them. Plus, there was no easy way to identify eligible cases.

In an effort to streamline the expungement process, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced this week they are partnering with Code for America (CfA), a tech-driven nonprofit and nonpartisan group aimed at augmenting government services.

“As technology advances and the criminal justice system evolves, we as prosecutors must do our part to pursue innovative justice procedures on behalf of our constituents. This collaboration will improve people’s lives by erasing the mistakes of their past and hopefully lead them on a path to a better future. Helping to clear that path by reducing or dismissing cannabis convictions can result in someone securing a job or benefitting from other programs that may have been unavailable to them in the past,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement.

Marijuana Conviction Expungement

Automatic Expungement

Having a marijuana conviction can cause employment obstacles, and hinder access to housing, school loans, government benefits, and other opportunities. Expunging cannabis convictions will wipe the slate clean so that those with past marijuana convictions are no longer burdened by penalties and disqualifications associated with a criminal history.

The work by CfA will clear or reduce the convictions without eligible individuals having to file a petition. The algorithm the organization developed is called Clear My Record.

CfA has identified an estimated 50,000 eligible convictions in Los Angeles County and another 4,000 in San Joaquin County.

San Francisco teamed up with CfA to automatically eliminate 8,000-plus marijuana convictions earlier this year. CfA has a goal of clearing 25,000 eligible marijuana convictions nationwide by the end of 2019.

“In the digital age, automatic record clearance is just common sense,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director of Code for America. “Thanks to the leadership of District Attorneys Lacey and Salazar, we’ve shown how records clearance can and should be done everywhere.”

“When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises, especially for the hundreds of thousands who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities despite the passage of laws intended to provide relief. Clear My Record changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the state and the nation,” she added.

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