San Francisco announced on Monday it will wipe out or reduce more than 8,000 marijuana convictions from a backlog of criminal cases, which were eligible for modification. District Attorney George Gascón partnered with Code for America to use a technological approach to help identify eligible cases, some going back decades.
The nonprofit technology organization helped the district attorney’s office identify 9,300 cases to date that will either be dropped or reduced “without cost, active participation and the knowledge of the defendants,” KQED News reported.
“I want to continue to evangelize, if you will, to get others around the country and the state to do the same things and push the envelope to continue to reduce the impacts of criminal convictions when we can,” Gascón said.
Since Proposition 64 passed in California in 2016, the adult-use of marijuana became legal and many pot-related crimes were banished. The law was retroactive, but there was no plan as to how eligible cases would be erased or reduced. This was until San Francisco became the first county in California to fully comply with the state’s broad legalization of marijuana and Gascón’s commitment to search through thousands of criminal cases dating back to 1975.
Code for America helped Gascón’s office with the time consuming task of identifying eligible cases through a “lightweight” and “simple computer-based algorithm” called Clear My Record, KQED News reported. The program, developed by coders, “automatically fills out forms to be filed with the courts.”
“We believe that the work that’s happened over the past several months creates a real blueprint for the future,” Jennifer Pahlka, director of Code for America, said. “We have the power to provide automatic records clearance to millions, and paired with a targeted set of policy actions, technology will make this possible.”
Many other district attorneys throughout California have since partnered with Code for America to also help them identify eligible marijuana cases.
“We don’t have to do it,” Gascón said. “It was just a matter of dignity.”