Hundreds of thousands of past marijuana convictions could be cleared from people’s records in California thanks to new technology developed by the nonprofit technology organization Code for America.
The group has already helped five major counties in the state expedite the expungement process by assisting in the identification of cases that are eligible for record clearing under California’s 2016 legalization law. It announced on Thursday that its Clear My Record Application has been updated and can now be utilized statewide.
Approximately 220,000 people are estimated to qualify for expungements, according to the state Department of Justice.
In addition to the enhanced technology for identifying eligible cases, Code for America also released a step-by-step guide—called the Implementation Blueprint—that prosecutors can use to automatically clear records.
“Today we’re expanding Clear My Record statewide, which will open the door to relief for tens of thousands of Californians,” Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka said in a press release. “We are demonstrating that government can make good on its promises, especially to those who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities because of their criminal record. Clear My Record is igniting change across the state and the nation.”
“Code for America has set a goal of clearing 250,000 eligible convictions nationwide by the end of 2019.
Yolo County will be the first to implement the new technology. San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Joaquin Counties were among those to participate in an earlier pilot project, which is aiding district attorneys in identifying upwards of 75,000 cannabis cases that can be expunged.
“Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is excited to be working with Code for America to provide conviction relief to those eligible under law,” Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said. “Using Clear My Record streamlines our work, and it also makes it easier to be open and transparent with our community. This partnership enables us to leverage technology and data to better serve our community and transform the way our government delivers services to those impacted by the criminal justice system.”
The Clear My Record site allows government officials to input their information to gain access to the free, open source application. The technology “analyzes conviction data based on eligibility criteria, and produces output files with eligibility determinations that courts can use to update records.”
“Our current record clearance processes were not built for the digital age,” the organization said. “Today, each person seeking conviction relief must petition the court on their own to clear their records, but this is a time-consuming, expensive, and confusing process.”
Code for America said that the success of its application demonstrates that such automatic expungements can be replicated across the country as more states opt to legalize marijuana, with a greater focus on righting the wrongs of prohibition.
In addition to California, the group announced last week that it is partnering with Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx in Illinois to automatically clear the records of tens of thousands of individuals with cannabis convictions, consistent with the legalization law that Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed in June.
“The technology and innovation made possible through our partnership with Code for America will help us provide broad and equitable conviction relief for tens of thousands of people while ensuring that more of our time and resources can be used to combat violent crime,” Foxx said in a press release. “This partnership is one of many steps Cook County is taking to leverage technology in order to better serve our community and bring our criminal justice system into the 21st century.”
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