Everyone makes bad decisions, particularly when they are younger. When those choices reach the level of criminal convictions, a record of those offenses will follow them as they apply for jobs and educational opportunities. Sins of the past are perpetually revisited as the punishment continues long after serving a sentence.
Expanding opportunities for ex-convicts
The California legislature recently addressed this issue. Lawmakers passed a law – expected to take effect in July of 2023 – that would seal a majority of criminal records for state residents who completed their sentences and stayed out of legal trouble for four years. Also sealed are arrests or other matters that don’t result in convictions.
Exceptions to the law exist. Convictions of serious violent felonies will not automatically qualify for having their records sealed. The bill’s language would provide a path to petitioning for those types of documents to remain off-limits.
As with any legislative decision, supporters lauded it as a path to employment and housing opportunities that would typically be denied after a background check. Detractors see gaping holes in the law, specifically those going through the challenging transition back into society.
Fueling a narrative?
Those same opponents see this as another step in the Golden State’s reputation of being soft on crime. For those opposed to what they see as a decriminalization trend, the latest legislative move only further fuels that narrative. It could be victims of crime who pay the price.
California joins select states that allow for immediate clearing of criminal records. However, those areas of the country are less expansive than the myriad opportunities the state will purportedly provide.
The expanded experiment will commence in a few months, providing countless second chances for those looking to pick up the pieces of their lives and start anew.