State legislators sent a bill that would seal criminal records for qualified ex-offenders was sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom this week, which will impact about 8 million Californians.
A criminal record can trigger nearly 50,000 legal restrictions in California which can limit job opportunities, the ability to obtain housing, and educational opportunities. Nationally, an estimated 70 million people have a past arrest or conviction on their record.
Senate Bill 731 would not apply to serious or violent felonies, but it would apply to offenses like domestic violence. The bill passed the Senate on Thursday in a 28-10 vote and was advanced to Newsom’s office.
The Peace Officers Research Association of California opposed the bill, stating that current law authorizes a This bill would make this relief available to a defendant who has been convicted of any felony.
“PORAC believes that by expanding the relief of penalties for all felonies, we are placing our communities at risk. Oftentimes, felony crimes are violent and leave behind innocent victims whose lives will never be the same. By allowing violent criminals back on the street, with their record dismissed, they will have less deterrent to commit another crime.”
Supporters said that the U.S. loses an estimated $372.3 billion per year in terms of gross domestic product due to employment losses among people living with convictions.
According to Californians for Safety and Justice, California maintains an individual’s criminal records until that person reaches 100 years of age. The group points to the thousands of barriers resulting from these records bringing in widespread constraints on civic participation with the use of background checks in today’s society.
“Old criminal records go beyond economics and into denial of human decency, family responsibility, and basic citizenship. Lack of access to employment and housing are primary factors driving recidivism, criminal records are serious barriers to successful reentry and come at a cost of $20 billion annually to California’s economy,” wrote Californians for Safety and Justice wrote in a statement.