The new age in technology has just barreled its way into the justice system, helping thousands of convictions dating back to 1975 in San Fransisco get dismissed.
According to Mondays briefings the San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced Monday that 8,132 convictions would be cleared, all thanks to a smart computer algorithm that was able to scan through millions of court records automatically.
A statement released from the office of San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon stated that “This makes San Francisco the first county in the country to complete the automated marijuana record clearance process.”
Due to the marijuana movement the DA office’s has teamed up with Code For America- a company known for using technology to improve the accuracy of the government, in order to develop a smart computer program that identifies cases that are eligible for dismissal after California passed a bill in 2016 which allowed the use of recreational marijuana.
Over the past three years, Prop 64 passed, along with allowing people who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor petition to have their convictions overturned or reduced, since those same crimes would not be penalized to the same extent in today’s day and age.
However, it was up to the individual to petition the court on their own, a process that detoured many people away. For example, in 2018 only 23 people in San Francisco filed petitions, according to the district office.
Since those low numbers came out Gascon promise last year that his office would proactively look into a new way to determine cases that were eligible, and kept that promise when in May they teamed up with Code For America to start the process of development
While many think this technology may already exist, the reality that many of the court documents that are held within the clerk’s office are hand sifting through and in most cases can be faulty or take to much time.
“Using technology, we have been able to proactively bring greater racial equity and fairness to marijuana legalization in California,” Gascón emphasized in a press conference Monday.
“I am thrilled to see other counties and states the following suit by offering similar relief in their communities. It’s the right thing to do.”
Clearing the records of thousands will help people gain jobs and be approved for housing along with other opportunities that were not possible because of criminal records.
“If you are the mom or dad who wants to participate in the kids’ school activities and they’re being told you can’t go to that field trip because you have a felony conviction because you sold a nickel bag in the Tenderloin 10 years ago, that’s the people that we care about,” explained Gascón.
“This partnership also helps to address wrongs caused by the failed war on drugs, felt most strongly by communities of color,” he added. “In San Francisco, approximately 33% of all dismissed convictions involved African American people, and 27% involved Latinx people.”
Court cases will now be sent automatically to the court for dismissal and sealing. Last year the final decision was made by Gascon with the idea to retroactively apply Proposition 64 to felony and misdemeanor cases back to 1975. The district office can still dismiss people with convictions before 75. However, defendants must contact the DA’s office on their own to initiate a review.
The agency responsible for the pilot program hopes that this will move to other cities and states that plan on expunging eligible convictions. This program is aimed at helping people regain the pride and freedom they deserve.
“Contact with the criminal justice system should not be a life sentence, so we’ve been working to reimagine the record clearance process,” Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America CEO and executive director, announced in a statement.”This new approach, which is both innovative and common sense, changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the country.”
Gascon however, explained that his office is not able to notify everyone who will have their case dismissed although says, “We’re hoping that those that understand that they may be subject to this can then call us and say, ‘Hey, is my conviction cleared?'”
Anyone who believes they have a marijuana conviction that should be dismissed or reclassified by the San Francisco district attorney’s office, they can contact the office by phone at 415-553-1751, or via email at email@example.com.