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The Robots Are Coming to Terminate Your Pot Convictions



SAN FRANCISCO – As part of a major expansion of automatic record clearance, a group of software developer hacktivists from Code for America announced the launch of its new Clear My Record App which is being made available to every county in California.

This software will allow district attorneys to expeditiously review cannabis convictions eligible under Proposition 64 within the timeline provided under AB 1793. The California Department of Justice estimates that there are 220,000 convictions potentially eligible for relief.

This milestone builds on the success of a five-county automatic record clearance pilot that has set the standard for record clearance statewide. Through this pilot alone, approximately 75,000 cannabis convictions will be dismissed or reduced. 

Code for America’s Clear My Record technology reimagines the record clearance process, moving from the unworkable petition-based process that was in place to an expedited and automatic process, and shows that automatic record clearance—in California and across the nation—is possible.

“Today we’re expanding Clear My Record statewide, which will open the door to relief for tens of thousands of Californians,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director, Code for America. “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.”

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is the first to utilize the Clear My Record application and toolkit to implement AB 1793. 

“Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is excited to be working with Code for America to provide conviction relief to those eligible under law,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, “The Clear My Record Application and Implementation Blueprint dramatically accelerates our efforts to review convictions and implement AB 1793, well in advance of the law’s July 2020 deadline.” 

The Clear My Record Application and Implementation Blueprint

Code for America today launched the Clear My Record toolkit, a free, open source software application and step-by-step guide available to every District Attorney’s office in California. This equips every county with the tools and information needed to implement AB 1793, a new California law that requires automatic, expedited review of convictions eligible under Proposition 64. 

The toolkit includes: 

  • The Clear My Record Application: software that analyzes Prop 64 conviction records based on a DA’s eligibility criteria, and produces output files with eligibility determinations that courts can use to update records.
  • An Implementation Blueprint: a step-by-step guide to implementation of AB 1793.

By leveraging Code for America’s software and blueprint, California is on track to implement automatic conviction relief statewide for the first time. 

How the Technology Works 

This technology analyzes bulk criminal history data sets provided to county District Attorneys by the California Department of Justice (CADOJ), scanning for and identifying every Proposition 64 eligible conviction based on each DA’s eligibility criteria. 

Clear My Record can analyze conviction eligibility for approximately 10,000 individuals in just one minute. The software then outputs the results of this analysis with all eligibility determinations, including the reasons for each determination. 

Finally, Clear My Record provides a report that summarizes key aggregate conviction data based on eligibility criteria chosen, including the number of people who would receive specific types of relief. This summary report allows counties to better understand the overall impact of Proposition 64 automatic record clearance in their jurisdiction.

Record Clearance for the Digital Age 

Our current record clearance processes were not built for the digital age. 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’s work in this area began in 2016 with the development of its first Clear My Record technology, an online intake tool that connects people with convictions to attorneys in 14 California counties. To date, Code For America has connected over 12,000 people with legal help to navigate the petition-based record clearance process. But that effort was insufficient given the hundreds of thousands of people who need this relief.

In 2018 Code for America launched a five-county pilot to leverage technology and user-centered design to fundamentally rethink the record clearance process. 

New Clear My Record technology was built with the five pilot counties, in close partnership with other state agencies and courts, to quickly evaluate eligibility for record remediation relief under the applicable statute. 

This novel approach also creates a blueprint for record clearance for remedies beyond Proposition 64—the development of policy and technology that expands, streamlines and automates the record clearance process at scale.

This requires no action on the part of the individual, and minimal government staff time and resources—two obstacles for record clearance. Streamlining conviction data processing will also make it easier for courts to update court records, ensuring that individuals can obtain relief as soon as possible. 

Code for America has set a goal of clearing 250,000 eligible convictions nationwide by the end of 2019. 

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