LA is the Latest City to Wipe Mass Cannabis Convictions Using Computer Algorithms

Los Angeles officials say they're going to automatically expunge 50,000 marijuana convictions using computer algorithms.

50,000 cannabis convictions are about to be permanently wiped from the criminal records of LA residents for free and automatically, said LA district attorney Jackie Lacey. The county is now working with the non-profit tech organization Code for America to employ computer algorithms that can automatically identify and expunge the records of qualifying individuals.

"This collaboration will improve people's lives by erasing the mistakes of their past and hopefully lead them on a path to a better future," Lacey said in a statement obtained by The Guardian.

When California voters legalized recreational cannabis in 2016, the law included provisions for expunging minor cannabis related convictions from individuals' criminal records. However, the process required people to petition for their own expungements, a relatively complex process that proved inaccessible for many people.

Last year in San Francisco, only 23 people successfully petitioned for expungement (each of them had hired a lawyer to help with the process), leading lawmakers to search for a way to streamline the process. And last month, San Francisco became the first jurisdiction in the US to utilize Code for America's new computer-driven expungement process. Their efforts resulted in the free and automatic expungement of 9,300 cannabis convictions from people in the San Francisco area.

"When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises, especially for the hundreds of thousands who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities despite the passage of laws intended to provide relief," said Jennifer Pahlka, the executive director of Code for America.

Carrying even a minor cannabis conviction on your criminal record can greatly affect your ability to apply for jobs or even be approved for an apartment lease. As legalization spreads across the country, provisions for criminal record expungement have often become a central part of legislation. Most jurisdictions, however, still require individuals to go through a complicated process to get their criminal records cleaned.

The steps to improve and automate the expungement process by San Francisco and now Los Angeles prove that getting your criminal record cleared doesn't have to be difficult.

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