More than 85 000 sentences for minor cannabis-related, for some old-almost 60 years, will be automatically erased of the criminal records thanks to a “pilot program” launched in California, where the use and sale of cannabis for recreational has been legalized since 2018.
This measure “is going to be a relief well deserved for the populations of color who have suffered disproportionately from the consequences of the unjust laws of our nation” in the matter, said Thursday in a press release Jackie Lacey, attorney of Los Angeles county, where approximately 66 000 convictions will be erased.
The experts believe that the consumption and sale of cannabis relate in the same proportions in all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. However, a study carried out in 2016 showed that black americans, who represent only 6% of the population of california, accounted for nearly 25% of inmates imprisoned solely for offences or crimes related to cannabis.
On some 53 000 people in total affected by the extent of deletion in the county of Los Angeles, 32% are black, 45% latino and 20% white, are the services of the attorney.
These convictions, some of which dated back to 1961, are often a disincentive to employment or in search of a home.
The california law, which had legalized the use and sale of cannabis for recreational also envisaged the possibility for sentenced persons for offences ceasing de facto exist (possession, sale, or cultures of small quantities of cannabis, etc) to ask a judge to delete from their criminal record.
But the process had to be initiated by the convicted persons themselves, it was difficult and costly, and only 3% of those eligible have therefore arisen.
An NGO called Code for America, whose purpose is to help the u.s. government to enter into “the digital age”, has therefore developed a partnership with several california counties to propose an algorithm that is able to identify automatically if eligible.
“This technology can analyze the eligibility of thousands of convictions in a few seconds, which obviates the teams of the prosecutor to peel one by one the case in the crime archives”, commend the services of Ms. Lacey.
“It is the clear demonstration that an automatic deletion on a large scale is feasible and can help to repair the injustice,” says Evonne Silva, responsible for legal matters within Code for America.