By Jay Petersen, CILS Sacramento Senior Attorney
Assembly member Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-47th) of San Bernardino introduced AB 2147 in February 2020 and Governor Newsom signed the bill in early September. The law takes effect January 1st, 2021.
AB 2147 represents a clear eyed and fair minded “ban-the-box” law intended to reduce unnecessary barriers to employment for individuals with conviction histories. “Ban-the-box” laws prohibit the required disclosure of conviction histories in job applications until prospective employers extend an initial offer of employment to a job applicant. “Ban-the-box” laws are built on solid, long term evidence that conviction histories are too often arbitrarily used to prevent post-conviction employment. Gainful post-conviction employment is one of the key factors that enables formerly incarcerated individuals to successfully re-join their communities.
California faces a critical shortage of qualified firefighters. To help meet the urgent Statewide need for skilled and experienced firefighters, AB 2147 amends current expungement law by providing professionally trained state prisoners and county inmate firefighters with a streamlined path to clearing their convictions that is not available to them when they apply for other jobs.
The Native community has a long and successful track record in fighting fires from serving as smoke jumpers, and “hot shot crew” members to frontline firefighters. Native community members are also disproportionally represented in California’s incarcerated population. These demographic factors make this new law especially important to members of the Native community with qualified training who are released from or who are nearing release from custody and who want to continue to serve their communities as firefighters.
Under AB 2147, courts are empowered to dismiss the convictions and terminate the parole or probation conditions of individuals who are trained and who have successfully served as members of state and county fire fighting units as state prisoners or county inmates. Local law enforcement must be notified of all petitions to dismiss convictions and terminate parole or probation terms and can object to these requests. State and local officials certify an individual’s qualifications to reviewing courts. Certain felony convictions are ineligible for dismissal.
California Indian Legal Services maintains a State Bar funded Native American Record Clearing Project that helps eligible individuals with criminal histories re-enter the work force. Individuals who think they may qualify for conviction dismissal under this new law should contact us for an evaluation of their eligibility and for possible assistance in filing expungement petitions so they can continue to serve their communities in the firefighting profession.
For further information, consult https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml and please contact:
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