For Californians who were convicted of a felony for possession of cannabis, the fight to reduce or erase that conviction after Proposition 64’s passing can be a lengthy and expensive one, requiring an attorney and time in court. However, a new partnership may prove the means to speed the process up and drop financial burden on those who were once convicted.
Code for America (CFA) is partnering with San Francisco’s District Attorney George Gascón to automatically reduce cannabis convictions for city residents who fall under Prop. 64 eligibility.
The partnership allows the district attorney’s office to use a program to have the municipal government determine a person’s eligibility, automatically fill out the form and export a completed motion in PDF format. San Francisco has been working to proactively eliminate convictions since January and has been granted 428 dismissals so far. The program will speed up the process, eventually filing motions to clear or reduce the 4,940 felony cannabis convictions in the city that date back to 1975.
“When the government uses 20th century tools to tackle 21st century problems, it’s the public that pays the price,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “California has decriminalized recreational cannabis use, but a marijuana conviction continues to serve as a barrier to employment, housing, student loans and more. Lack of access to employment and housing are two primary drivers of recidivism, so until we clear these records it’s government that is effectively holding these people back and impeding public safety. I’m hopeful that this partnership will inspire many prosecutors who have cited resource constraints to join this common-sense effort and provide this relief.”
This latest effort is an extension of CFA’s Clear My Record project, which has connected 7,000 people with attorneys in over a dozen California counties. The San Francisco partnership is the first, but CFA plans to expand to several more counties by 2019. CFA offers several program options for government use, including help getting CalFresh food and benefits, and a communication program that helps clients and case managers stay in contact more effectively.
“We have for a long time noticed a gap between what voters [were] promised [in] Prop. 64 and what’s actually happening by people affected by those propositions,” said CFA Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka, “and we’ve been looking for ways to close that gap in the context of our overall mission, which is that government should work better in the digital age.”
“By reimagining existing government systems through technology and user-centered design,” Pahlka said, “we can help governments rethink incarceration, reduce recidivism, and restore opportunity.”