When people with convictions have served their time and otherwise paid their debt to society, they deserve a fair chance at becoming stable & productive members of their community and afforded the opportunity to take care of themselves and their families. The long shadow cast by the extreme and lifetime consequences of a conviction isolates, rather than integrates, people into society. Removing legal barriers will improve public safety, and it will also improve economic and health outcomes for families and reduce the likelihood individuals will re-offend. This would ultimately make California a more prosperous and safe state for everyone. Reform is needed to provide California with a holistic solution that will end debilitating collateral consequences across all sectors.
RECOMMENDATION 1: SUNSET CONVICTIONS: END LIFELONG PUNISHMENT BEYOND CONVICTION
California must end its current system that imposes punishments—through lifelong collateral consequences—far beyond sentence completion. The fairest and effective approach is to adopt uniform policies that call for automatic, mandatory destruction, or “purging,” of stale arrests or criminal history information upon conclusion of a sentence or when a person has remained crime-free for a specified time.
RECOMMENDATION 2: CONSOLIDATE THE “EXPUNGEMENT” PROCESS
California’s existing “clean slate” laws are complicated and fail to effectively remove collateral consequences. California must replace its outdated system with a new, comprehensive remedy that includes a unified process rather than the dozens of existing processes. The remedy would require a single filing for a given petitioner, not separate filings for multiple cases and would include reporting protections.
RECOMMENDATION 3: REDUCE BARRIERS TO OBTAINING OCCUPATIONAL LICENSES
To ensure that all qualified people are given a fair chance to pursue careers, and to strengthen California’s workforce, licensing boards should be permitted to use criminal history only when that criminal history is plausibly related to a person’s ability to successfully work in the licensed profession. Specifically, licensing boards should not be permitted to deny a license for most felony convictions older than seven years and misdemeanor convictions older than three years.