Cal­i­for­nia aims to seal rap sheets of low-level crim­i­nals

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Timothy Wil­liams

After spend­ing more than seven years in prison for rob­bery and auto theft, Jay Jor­dan tried to get work sell­ing in­sur­ance, real es­tate and used cars, but was re­peat­edly turned away.

For­mer felons are of­ten barred from ob­tain­ing pro­fes­sional li­censes, and an op­por­tu­nity to be a bar­ber at a friend’s shop fell through for the same rea­son. A non­profit pro­gram he started ran into trou­ble when a school sought to pre­vent him from meet­ing with stu­dents be­cause of his crim­i­nal past – a his­tory that be­gan when he stole a car at 18, al­most 15 years ago.

Un­der a bill now mak­ing its way through the Cal­i­for­nia State Leg­is­la­ture, mil­lions of peo­ple who have mis­de­meanor or lower-level felony records could be spared those prob­lems: their crim­i­nal records would au­to­mat­i­cally be sealed from pub­lic view once they com­pleted prison or jail sen­tences. The leg­is­la­tion would not ap­ply to peo­ple con­victed of com­mit­ting the most se­ri­ous crimes, like mur­der or rape.

“There are so many of us who just want to be bet­ter, but are con­stantly turned down, turned away,” said Jor­dan, who is now project di­rec­tor for Time Done, an Oak­land non­profit that works with peo­ple who have crim­i­nal records, and sup­ports the leg­is­la­tion.

In the United States, a record show­ing a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion or even an ar­rest that does not lead to a con­vic­tion can make it nearly im­pos­si­ble for some­one to find jobs or apart­ments or to ob­tain pro­fes­sional li­censes.

One in three Amer­i­cans has a crim­i­nal record, ac­cord­ing to the Jus­tice Depart­ment, and a Na­tional In­sti­tute of Jus­tice study found that hav­ing a crim­i­nal record re­duced the chance of get­ting a job of­fer or a call­back by 50 per­cent.

The leg­is­la­tion, in­tro­duced last week in the Assem­bly, would make Cal­i­for­nia – where an es­ti­mated 8 mil­lion peo­ple have crim­i­nal records – the first state to au­to­mat­i­cally scrub the rap sheets of peo­ple whose records qual­ify. The records would still be ac­ces­si­ble to law en­force­ment agen­cies, but not to mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic, in­clud­ing land­lords and em­ploy­ers.

The leg­is­la­tion is part of a larger push to over­haul el­e­ments of the nation’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem by peo­ple who say it in­car­cer­ates too many peo­ple, wast­ing money and lives.

So far, the Cal­i­for­nia pro­posal has raised few pub­lic ob­jec­tions, largely be­cause it does not ex­pand the range of crimes that can be sealed.

The leg­is­la­tion is ex­pected to be ap­proved by both cham­bers of the State Leg­is­la­ture, which are dom­i­nated by Democrats, in the cur­rent ses­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.