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San Francisco To Expunge Over 9,300 Marijuana Convictions

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  • San Francisco’s District Attorney announced he will expunge 9,362 marijuana convictions dating as far back as 1975.
  • The DA’s office teamed up with a nonprofit called Code for America, which developed technology that helped identify cases that are eligible for expungement.
  • The city took this proactive approach to clear cases themselves because they say the traditional process is expensive and tedious, making it both challenging and rare for eligible people to do so themselves.

Past Convictions to be Expunged

San Francisco officials announced Monday that they will dismiss 9,362 marijuana convictions dating back to 1975, making San Francisco the first city in the U.S. to clear all eligible marijuana convictions.

The announcement from San Francisco’s District Attorney, George Gascón, comes just over two years after California passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California for people 21 and older.

Prop. 64 was approved by voters in 2016, and also allows those convicted of marijuana possession to petition to have their convictions expunged.

It also allow people to petition to have marijuana-related crimes reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. The expungements also include marijuana convictions that are tied to other crimes.

Code for America

After Prop 64 passed, San Francisco became the first county to announce that it would clear old marijuana convictions.

For about a year, the San Francisco DA’s office went through old marijuana cases to determine which ones were eligible for dismissal and found about 1,200 cases to clear on their own.



However, that process proved to be time-consuming, which lead the DA to team up with a nonprofit called Code for America, a group that uses open-source technology to improve government efficiency.

Code for America used a computer algorithm it created called “Clear My Record” which sorts through marijuana convictions and determined which were eligible for expungement under Prop. 64.

According to a Medium article written by Code for America: “The Clear My Record technology can automatically and securely evaluate eligibility for convictions by reading and interpreting conviction data. It can evaluate eligibility for thousands of convictions in just a few minutes.”

The program also automatically fills out the required paperwork that can be turned in to the court for processing these cases.

People could request expungements themselves even before the DA and Code for America took on the project. However, before the city began to look for people who were eligible, only 23 people had actually petitioned the city to do something about their convictions because it is a confusing and tedious task.

Gascón said in a statement, “You have to hire an attorney. You have to petition the court. You have to come for a hearing,” continuing:

“It’s a very expensive and very cumbersome process. And the reality is that the majority of the people that were punished and were the ones that suffered in this war on marijuana, war on drugs nationally, were people that can ill afford to pay an attorney.”

Impact on People of Color & Low Income Communities

The DA’s office also noted that people who have marijuana convictions on their records often have trouble finding employment, noting that these people can face barriers when trying to get access to education, housing, loans, and public assistance.

Gascón also noted that there were racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city.

A study done by ACLU in 2013 found that in San Francisco, African Americans were more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.

Source: ACLU

In a press briefing, Gascón said: “Take San Francisco for instance, our African American population is under 5 percent. But if you look at our convictions for marijuana offenses, 33 percent of people we convicted were African American, 27 percent were Latino.”

Due to the push from these factors, the city decided to take a proactive approach to clear past convictions themselves to help people who they say, “needed the most relief.”

Spillover Effect

Now that the DA has made the announcement, all that has to be done is for the courts to process the requests.

With this unprecedented move from San Francisco, many are wondering what implications this has for the rest of the country.

San Francisco’s actions have already prompted several other cities to follow their lead, and many believe that both the expungements and the technology used by Code for America will have a positive spillover effect.

Code for America intends on expanding it’s pilot program to other California counties, and has already set the goal of clearing 250,000 eligible convictions nationwide by 2019.

In California, other counties including Los Angeles are considering similar efforts. The Los Angeles County DA’s office estimates that there have been 40,000 felony marijuana convictions offenses since 1993. However, prosecutors have not said how many of those cases could be eligible for expungement.

The Code for America technology could also help a California with Assembly Bill 1793 which was signed into law last year. The bill mandates that the state build a list of all individuals eligible to have crimes expunged under Prop 64, with the end goal of having all past marijuana-related crimes reduced or cleared by 2020.

There are also other efforts happening outside of California.

In Missouri, lawmakers are considering a bill that would expunge convictions for medical marijuana patients, which is legal in the state.

New Jersey residents can also have their convictions expunged, but like in San Francisco, the process is reportedly challenging.

Additionally, in New York, the governor has proposed legalizing recreational marijuana use, and officials are exploring the possibly expunging or sealing conviction records.

Some law enforcement groups are not thrilled about the move to expunge convictions.

John Lovell, legislative counsel to the California Narcotic Officers’ Association, who was one of the leading voices against the legalization of marijuana in CA, told the Los Angeles Times: “To simply embark on an across-the-board expungement of 9,300 without looking at any of the surrounding factors on any of those cases strikes us as cavalier irresponsibility.”

In contrast, Gascón has said:

“This isn’t a political thing. This is about dignity. People pay their debt to society. People pay the consequences for something we no longer consider a crime. They should not be jumping through hoops for this. They should just get it.”

See what others are saying: (San Francisco Chronicle) (Los Angeles Times) (NPR)

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Coachella Woman Sentenced for Dumping Puppies in Trash

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  • Deborah Sue Culwell, who was arrested for tossing a bag of seven puppies into a dumpster in April, has now pled guilty to seven counts of animal cruelty and seven counts of misdemeanor animal abandonment.
  • She was sentenced to 365 days in jail, 90 of which will be served on work release, and was also ordered to complete a formal probation period of seven years.
  • During her probation, she will not be allowed to own animals.

Culwell Pleads Guilty

A Coachella woman who made national headlines in April for tossing a bag of seven puppies into a dumpster will serve time behind bars after pleading guilty to 14 charges on Wednesday.

Deborah Sue Culwell initially pled not guilty to seven counts of animal cruelty and seven misdemeanor counts of animal abandonment when security footage of her committing the act went viral.

According to Riverside County Superior Court records obtained by Rogue Rocket, Culwell will now serve 365 days in jail, 90 of which will be on work release. Culwell was also sentenced to complete a formal probation period of seven years.

Other terms of her probation include not being allowed to own non-prescribed controlled substances, being subject to property searches and drug testing, and not being allowed to own animals during the seven-year period. 

Culwell’s Case

Culwell’s case drew in widespread attention and created national outrage earlier this year. On the day she abandoned the puppies in a dumpster, it was reportedly over 90 degrees in Coachella, California. The dogs were just three days old.

A man discovered them soon after and brought them into an air-conditioned store where others were able to call animal services. One of the puppies died a few days later. The surviving dogs were taken into foster care. 

When officers arrested Culwell, they found 38 dogs at her residence. She was forced to give up her ownership of them. They were transferred to Riverside County Animal Services and put up for adoption. RCAS said the animals were living in “crammed conditions,” appeared “nervous,” and were not “used to being handled with love.” 

See what others are saying: (Desert Sun) (BuzzFeed News) (CBS Los Angeles)

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Newark’s Water Crisis Intensifies as Reports Show City-Issued Filters Failed to Remove Lead Contamination

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  • After a report found a small number of city-issued filters failed to remove lead from Newark’s water system, the city advised all affected residents to avoid drinking from tap water.
  • Monday, the city and state began handing out water bottles, but people soon discovered the water was months past its best-by date. 
  • Many have called for Mayor Ras Baraka to resign because the city has faced elevated lead levels for years, but residents were not told the water was unsafe to drink until last year.

Asking for Federal Aid

Newark and New Jersey state officials are asking the Federal government to step in after the city began handing out bottled water earlier this week in response to growing concerns of lead contaminating its water service lines.

On Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy visited the city and reiterated the need for federal aid, saying the state does not have enough water bottles to continue passing out for an extended period of time.

“Everybody, young and old, big and small, regardless of where you are in this state, in this community certainly in Newark in this country: clean water is a right, not a privilege, for everybody, and we believe that with great passion,” Murphy said in a press conference

Earlier in the day, Senator Cory Booker — who lives in Newark — tweeted about the need for federal aid in his hometown.

“It’s shameful that our national crisis of lead-contaminated water disproportionately hits poor black and brown communities like my own,” he wrote.

Newark’s Lead Crisis Explained

Old and corroding water service lines have propagated Newark’s lead issues for years. 

Since the 2010-2011 academic year, the Newark Board of Education has found elevated lead-water levels in schools every year. Despite attempting to fix the problem by installing new water lines, it persisted. 

In 2016, over 30 schools resorted to using bottled water after shutting off fountains, and thousands of children have been tested to see if they have increased levels of lead in their blood, with about 25 percent of Newark children under six having detectable lead levels.

In 2017, it was reported that 1 in every 10 households in Newark had twice the amount of lead the Environmental Protection Agency sets as a federal standard.

In the fall of last year, the city began handing out lead-safe PÜR filters. The city has estimated it has distributed more than 38,000 filters since October.

The increased calls for federal aid come after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an Aug. 9 statement to Mayor Ras Baraka, urging the city to begin handing out bottled water after it seemed some lead-safe filters were not adequately removing lead from water.

“We are unable at this time to assure Newark residents that their health is fully protected when drinking tap water filtered through these devices,” EPA Regional Administrator Peter Lopez said.

The next day, Baraka held a press conference and announced the city had received reports that two of three tested filters contained lead levels four times above what the EPA allows.

“A small sample of water filters provided to the City of Newark may not be removing lead to the low levels expected by city, state and federal officials,” a report released by the city on Monday said.

Also on Monday, city and state officials began handing out water bottles, advising those in affected areas to use bottled water to drink, cook, and prepare baby formula. 

Later, people began to notice the water was past its best-by date of May 30, and 50,000 more bottles had to be ordered. The state maintains the expired water was likely still safe to drink.

Residents waiting for water faced heat and long lines. Some said they were turned away if they weren’t from a specific area.

At the same time, Baraka has continually encouraged people to run their water for activities like showering or washing dishes. Currently, the city is attempting a corrosion-control treatment meant to re-coat old pipes.

Baraka has said residents should flush their water for 3-5 minutes before using it but has said the process will take some time. 

Because the water crisis affects mostly low-income and African American households, many are drawing comparisons to Flint, though Baraka has denied those associations and called them false comparisons.

Calls for Baraka to Resign

Despite the efforts taken by the city, some are saying Baraka should resign because until last fall, the city denied having a dangerous amount of lead in the water system. 

“It’s wrong,” one resident told ABC. “Something should be done about this. This has been going on for a while, and they’ve been covering it up and nobody didn’t do nothing about it.” 

After being sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Newark released a June 2018 statement saying “the City’s water is not contaminated with lead.”

“The lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council is based on the premise that Newark residents are exposed to dangerous levels of lead in the City’s drinking water,” the statement reads. “That charge is absolutely and outrageously false. The truth is that the water supplied by the city is pure, safe and fully complies with federal and state regulations. The NRDC has seriously mischaracterized the facts.

Many residents have spoken up about similar claims, saying the city lied to them.

“‘Your water’s fine, everything’s fine,’” Evette Jordan said she was told in an interview with CBS This Morning.

“That’s what you heard from the city?” reporter Anna Werner asked her.

“Yes, through several robocalls, through press conferences from our mayor,” Jordan said.

Though Newark admitted to the problems with lead in schools in the June statement, it argued it wasn’t to blame because the lead “stems from privately owned lead service lines,” not city mains.

See what others are saying: (WABC) (Star-Ledger) (New York Times)

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Ben Shapiro Slammed for Comments About Working Two Jobs

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  • Ben Shapiro recently made a comment about people who work two jobs to make ends meet saying, “you probably shouldn’t have taken the job that’s not paying you enough. That’d be a you problem.”
  • People were upset with his remarks and argued that he comes from a privileged background.
  • He tried to clarify his statement later, adding that he has worked “multiple jobs” throughout his career and understands why someone would need two.
  • Some were still unhappy with his comments, while others said they agreed with Shapiro.

Ben Shapiro’s Remarks go Viral

Conservative radio host Ben Shapiro responded to online backlash he received after saying that having to work two jobs to make ends meet is a “you problem.” 

On Wednesday, a clip of Shapiro making these comments on his show went viral. 

“If you had to work more than one job to have a roof over your head or food on the table, you probably shouldn’t have taken the job that’s not paying you enough,” he said. “That’d be a you problem.” 

Shapiro said he was referencing comments Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) made during a Democratic presidential debate. 

“People in America are working,” she said. “They’re working two and three jobs. So when we talk about jobs let’s be really clear. In our America, no one should have to work more than one job to have a roof over their head to food on the table.”

In the clip, Shapiro goes on to say that very few Americans are actually working multiple jobs, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is true. The BSL says that just under five percent of Americans work two jobs. However, some reports claim the number could be higher because sample groups may not reach enough people, and because someone working two jobs is less likely to participate in a survey. 

Comments Recieve Backlash

Still, Shapiro’s comments received a lot of backlash online. Many said they came from a place of privilege and pointed out the host’s financially comfortable upbringing. 

“Ben Shapiro is the child of a television studio executive and film composer and grew up in Hollywood as a private school dilettante who got his high school education for a tuition comparable to most Ivy League universities,” one user pointed out. 

It’s not a you problem it’s a systematic problem,” another said. 

Some also told their own stories about why people in their families have had to take multiple jobs. 

Shapiro Clarifies Statement

Shapiro later responded to the backlash on Twitter by posting a thread to clarify his comments.

“The point I am making, of course, is that you cannot dictate that a job pay you what you wish it paid you,” he said. 

However, he later added, “The answer to the problem of taking a job that you feel underpays you is to (a) not take the job, as I suggest here, or (b) not live beyond your means.”

He also said that he himself had worked multiple jobs for most of his career. 

“I understand why someone would need two jobs,” he later said after his thread.

Reactions to Shapiro’s Follow-Up

“You’ve had multiple gigs,” someone said. “That’s entirely different.” 

Others, however, defended Shapiro. 

“What he says is true,” one user wrote. “Just because you dont like it doesnt change it.”

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (HuffPost) (The Hill)

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