• Wed. Feb 8th, 2023


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California Will Allow People to Clear Criminal Records After Serving Time

It’s Monday. California will soon enact the nation’s broadest law sealing criminal records. Plus, Gov. Gavin Newsom says he won’t challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination.

California lawmakers approved one of the most far-reaching criminal justice reform measures in the nation this year, a bill that drew relatively little fanfare among a parade of high-profile legislation.

The new law makes California the first state that will automatically seal most criminal records for those who complete their sentences. Advocates pushed for the change because they said such records can prevent once-incarcerated people from getting jobs, housing, schooling and more. Jeff Selbin, the director of the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law, called the legislation “the most expansive and comprehensive record-clearing law of its kind in the country.”

The measure, which builds on an earlier state law, takes effect in July and will automatically seal conviction and arrest records for most ex-offenders who are not convicted of another felony for four years after completing their sentences. Records of arrests that didn’t lead to convictions will also be sealed.

There are some exceptions: People convicted of serious and violent felonies, as well as those requiring sex offender registration, won’t have their records cleared under the law. And criminal histories would still be disclosed in background checks when people apply to work in education, law enforcement or public office.

Some law enforcement advocates opposed the legislation, including the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the state’s largest law enforcement labor organization. The group raised concerns that the widespread sealing of conviction records could place communities at risk.

“By allowing violent criminals back on the street, with their record dismissed, they will have less deterrent to commit another crime,” the organization said in a statement.

But over the past few years, states have increasingly considered legislation to clear criminal records, a push known as the “Clean Slate” movement. The proliferation of online records has meant that people continue to be punished for their crimes long after their sentences end, in the form of discrimination and lost opportunities, advocates say. Such burdens fall disproportionately on Black and Latino communities, they assert.

“They say you pay your debt to society when you serve your time,” said Olu Orange, the director of the University of Southern California Dornsife Trial Advocacy Program. “If that is truly the case, then it ought to be over after you finish.”

Eight million people in California have a criminal record, and at least 225,000 will have an old conviction automatically sealed as a result of the new law, according to the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a national criminal justice reform group.

María Elena Durazo, a Democratic state senator from Los Angeles who introduced the bill, said the law could allow millions of Californians to “reach their full employment and economic potential.”

“We cannot continue to pour billions of dollars into rehabilitative services while at the same time exclude people from positively contributing to their communities,” Durazo said in a statement. This law “will not only benefit the individual, but entire families and communities.”

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Best Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich.

Today’s tip comes from Kimberly Freeze, who lives in Florence, Italy:

“I was lucky enough for several decades to spend two weeks every summer in Faculty Flat in the Mineral King Valley in a cabin from 1931. At the end of a 25-mile steep and twisty dirt road lies a rustic paradise, where I could sleep outdoors under the stars, start my hikes at 7,500 feet and wallow in the flower-strewn headwaters of the east fork of the Kaweah River. From bears and marmots and grouse to tanagers and mosquitoes, the wildlife is abundant. The sound of the river rolling down the steep-sided crevasses lulls you to sleep. I dream of the sweet smell of the streamside willows and, when you need a dose of civilization, a lovely walk to Silver City for pie.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Fall colors have made quite a showing in California this year, with gold and red leaves popping up in all parts of the state.

Send us your best fall foliage photos at CAToday@nytimes.com and we may share them in an upcoming newsletter. Please include your name and the city where you live.

The Santa Cruz Mountains will soon offer many new trails for hiking and biking, thanks to years of conservation work.