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By Henrietta J. Burroughs                    Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                       Facebook    Twitter         Blog
May 15, 2015                                            EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon


        Partial copy of CA expungement form
This graphic shows a partial copy of the CA expungement form, CR-180 that needs to be completed to get felony convictions removed from a criminal record.      

There are a lot of misconceptions being generated about Prop 47, the statewide initiative passed last November, which allows many minor crimes to be reclassified.

Some in the law enforcement community think the passage of Prop 47 is leading to an increase in crime. While, others point to statistics that show there is an overall reduction in crime.

During the 2014 election campaign, Prop 47 generated a lot of controversy in and outside of the criminal justice community. But one thing appears evident, thousands who had felonies on their records might now find doors opening that were once tightly shut.

Since the majority of California voters approved Prop 47, previous offenses that were classified as felonies are now recorded as misdemeanors. This means that "non-serious, nonviolent property and drug crimes," have reduced penalties attached. Under Prop 47, the following crimes are now considered misdemeanors:

  • Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
  • Grand theft, where the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950
  • Receiving stolen property, where the value of the property does not exceed $950
  • Forgery, where the value of forged check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
  • Fraud, where the value of the fraudulent check, draft or order does not exceed $950
  • Writing a bad check, where the value of the check does not exceed $950
  • Personal use of most illegal drugs

Because of these reclassifications, many prisoners and former prisoners, who were convicted as felons can now get their felony convictions reduced and/or taken off their records. These record clearances will allow thousands of former prisoners more access to employment, housing opportunities and financial aid. It will also give them voting rights and open other doors that were once formerly closed.

The wording in Prop 47 states that it will affect "10,000 inmates [who] will be eligible for resentencing." In a column in the Los Angeles Daily News, Susan Burton, the founder and executive director of A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project in Los Angeles writes that California has “4,800 additional penalties for having a criminal record. Most (73 percent) are lifetime bans, and 58 percent restrict employment.”

So, the opportunity, which Prop 47 gives to thousands of convicted felons to clear their records, is a tremendous one.

Those who provide services to the formerly incarcerated are working hard to get information to the populations that they serve about the benefits that Prop 47 brings.

Dorsey Nunn, the executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), urges all who might can get felonies expunged from their records to act now.

Nunn said, "There is a three-year window to process everyone we can process. I think the opponents of Prop 47 are trying to make changes in the law and I think this is the best opportunity that we have."

In the East Palo Alto community, various area nonprofits have joined together to provide free clinics to assist with record expungement. Two of these clinics will take place soon.

On Saturday May 16, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Free At Last, an East Palo Alto nonprofit, will hold a Get Your Rap Sheet FREE OR LOW-COST session in their offices at 1796 Bay Road in East Palo Alto.

There will also be a Prop 47 Record Clearance Clinic held at Free at Last on Saturday, June 13 for 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. All who are interested in the rap sheet session or the record clearance clinic can contact Endria at Legal Services for Prisoners at (415) 255-7036 for more information. Additional details can be found at the East Palo Alto Today calendar page at www.epatoday.org/events.php

The author of this article, Henrietta J. Burroughs, can be reached by email at epatoday@epatoday.org


Additional EPA Today related videos

Crime and Punishment: How Will You Vote? - This Talking with Henrietta television on Prop 47 was produced on October 23, 2014.