SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Today, San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that she and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin joined Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) to announce the introduction of landmark legislation - Assembly Bill 2978 - that will build upon past efforts to provide relief to people living with past convictions.
According to a newly released report by the Alliance for Safety and Justice, automatically clearing an old conviction after a person has completed their sentence is key to ensuring people are able to regain family stability and economic security, which in turn is an integral part of a comprehensive public safety strategy.
Also present was sponsors, Californians for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit working with Californians to replace prison and justice system waste.
Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1076, authored by Assemblyman Ting and also sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice and then-San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, requiring the state Department of Justice to automatically clear eligible records of people who were arrested but never convicted of a crime or people convicted of certain crimes once they've fully completed the terms of their sentence. Last year's law only applies to arrests beginning January 1, 2021. The new proposal will make automatic record clearance retroactive and help millions more Californians.
Individuals with arrest records and convictions can currently apply to the courts to seal qualifying records, but critics say the process can cost thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees. The proposal automates that process, removing the need to petition judges.
"It's going to cost you a very good attorney and about $10,000 and at least a year of your time," said Tori Verber Salazar, San Joaquin County District Attorney. "I stand here today saying this is one of the best victim prevention tools that we have," she said; clearing records can help an individual find employment instead of turning to crime.
In announcing AB 2978 Assemblyman Ting said, ""For me this is about fairness," said Ting. "While I'm grateful my law from last year will help those arrested after Jan. 1, 2021, millions of Californians today are still living in a paper prison. Their records prevent them from getting jobs or housing. Let's give people with past convictions the same clean slate that individuals in the future will be entitled to. Everybody deserves a second chance."
The announcement was held at California State Capitol in Sacramento.