LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Angelenos across the city, who have criminal records, will have the opportunity to permanently seal their records under SB 731, starting July 1, Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, announced Friday.
In a joint news conference Friday morning at the steps of City Hall, Durazo, Councilmember Curren Price, several coalitions and community organizations discussed how the new legislation would impact not only Angelenos but also Californians. SB 731 was signed into law last fall by Gov. Gavin Newsom, making California the first state in American history to allow almost all old convictions on a person's criminal record to be permanently sealed.
"What SB 731 does is allow men and women who are living with old convictions, many 30 to 40 years old, to have the opportunity to participate in life with equality and to have the opportunity to go and look for housing without wondering if something that happened in 1980 would come up," said Saun Hough with Californians for Safety and Justice. "It allows Californians to have the opportunity to be the parents that they would chose to be by participating in their children's programs at school."
According to Hough, it was their intention to pass legislation that would remove the barriers to employment, education, and housing for millions of Californians and well over a quarter million of Angelenos.
"It allows me and us the opportunity to be judged by the content of our character today and not the mistakes that we made 30 to 40 years ago," Hough said.
Durazo said the passing of SB 731 would not have occurred if it was not for the hard work and dedication of the men and women who put themselves on the line. Many of those people are part of community organizations and coalitions such as Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Los Angeles Area Re-entry Partnership, Homeboy Industries and TimeDone California, who participated in Friday's press conference.
"When an individual completes their sentence, they should have already 'paid their debt to society.' They did everything that was told and expected of them," Durazo said. "They accepted responsibility for their actions."
According to Durazo, many Californians while incarcerated enroll in counseling, take classes and prepare for reentry into their communities. However, after those individuals are released, many of them face barriers due to their records to build a new life for themselves and their families.
Price said he was proud to be part of a city in a state that "believes in second chances." He shared the sentiment that they want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to move forward.
Phillip Lester, Southern California chapter coordinator for TimeDone, remembered when his coalition was told legislation like SB 731 would not be passed.
"We live in a land that is considered to be a land of second chance," Lester said. "We are getting the chance to be able to have gainful employment, housing, better care of families and be able to improve their community."