- 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.
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, “n
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)
California Parents Who Starved and Shackled Their Children Sentenced to Life in Prison.
- Louise and David Turpin, the parents who pled guilty to locking up and abusing their children, have been sentenced to life in prison.
- The abuse included beating, starving, and chaining up 12 of their 13 children, among other acts.
- The couple has the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Louise and David Turpin Receive Life Sentence
The California couple who pled guilty to locking up and abusing 12 of their 13 children were sentenced to life in prison on Friday.
Both Louise and David Turpin pled guilty to fourteen charges of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment, and false imprisonment in February. They were charged with the crimes in January 2018, when one of the children escaped from their Perris, California home. The child climbed out of a window and eventually alerted police of the situation.
The Turpin children ranged in age from two to 29-years-old at the time they were found in the house. Of the 13 kids, only the youngest appeared to have never been subject to abuse.
The Turpins chained their children to beds and other furniture, starved them, beat them. They would sometimes keep them chained for months at a time, not allowing them access to the bathroom.
The children were only allowed to shower once a year and seldom left the house. Their parents would also bake pies and not let the kids eat them and buy toys and not let the kids open or play with them. The abuse lasted for over a decade.
The Turpin’s Speak Out
The Turpins’ life sentence leaves them with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Louise Turpin spoke at the sentencing in Riverside County Superior Court, apologizing for the pain she caused her children.
“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” she said. “I want them to know that mom and dad are going to be ok.”
David Turin also had a prepared statement, but it was read by his attorney, as he was too emotional to deliver it himself.
“I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” his attorney read on his behalf.
Judge Bernard J. Schwartz condemned them both for their actions and spoke about the long-term effects of their abuse.
“Their lives have been permanently altered in their ability to learn, grow and thrive,” he said in court. “What the parents did was selfish, cruel, inhumane treatment.”
The Children Share Statements
The children, who have not been named since the case was first reported, also had a chance to speak in court.
“My parents took my whole life from me, now I’m taking my life back,” one daughter, who is now a college student, said. “Life may have been bad, but it made me strong.”
One son said he still often thinks about what he and his siblings went through.
“Sometimes, I still have nightmares of things that have happened,” he read. “Like my siblings getting chained up or beaten.”
Another child was sympathetic to their parents and expressed that they believed the Turpins deserved less jail time.
“I think 25 years is too long,” the child read in a statement. “I believe our parents did their best to raise all 13 of us.”
U.S. Labeled ‘Problematic’ Place for Journalists
- Reporters Without Borders dropped the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180 countries on its annual World Press Freedom Index.
- The ranking is three places lower than it was last year, changing the U.S. label from “satisfactory” to “problematic.”
- The Index states that increased threats against journalists in the U.S. are becoming more normalized.
- The report specifically cites the U.S. ranking as “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”
World Press Freedom Index
The United States has been ranked as a “problematic” place for journalists, as the threats they face continue to become more standard, according to a new report about press freedom.
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index, an annual report compiled by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders (RWB), downgraded the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180. The ranking is three spots lower than its place last year.
The downgrade officially changes the press freedom status of the U.S. from “satisfactory” to “problematic,” marking the first time the country has received that label.
#RSFIndex: For the first time, the #UnitedStates is coloured orange (“problematic”) on the World Press Freedom Map.— RSF (@RSF_inter) April 18, 2019
A man opened fire inside a newsroom, killing five people, but @realDonaldTrump continued to systematically denigrate the media.https://t.co/QYCSKKs2xB pic.twitter.com/uVObO1wwVH
“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” the report said.
According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 10 journalists have faced physical attacks this year, and 46 journalists were physically attacked in 2017.
The World Press Freedom Index report also cited the five journalists who were shot and killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland last June. The attack was carried out by a man who had threatened the publication for years before the attack.
The report also cited the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey last October.
The section of the report on North America specifically stated that the drop in rankings was “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”
“Amid one of the American journalism community’s darkest moments,” the report said.“President Trump continued to spout his notorious anti-press rhetoric, disparaging and attacking the media at a national level.”
Since being elected, Trump has referred to journalists as the “enemy of the American people,” and continuously accused nearly every mainstream media outlet of reporting “fake news.” He has also commended violence against journalists, like giving praise to a GOP congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017.
According to the report, Trump has also called for the revocation of broadcasting licenses and attempted to block certain media outlets from access to the White House. In November, the Trump administration was forced to restore the press credentials of a CNN reporter that had been stripped of his pass after a heated exchange with Trump.
Back in August, United Nations human rights leaders stated that Trump’s attacks have undermined press freedom, and increase the risk of violence against journalists.
“The president’s relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized,” RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan told NPR.
The Index also found that the Americas has experienced “the greatest deterioration” in its press freedom regional score.
This is not just because of the United States. The report also cited instances in Brazil, where journalists have been targeted by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro “both physically and online.” Experts often noted that Bolsonaro uses the same “fake news” refrain to discrediting negative media about him.
The report also stated that Mexico is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, noting that “at least ten journalists were murdered in 2018.”
RSF identified North Korea and Turkmenistan as the most dangerous countries for the media, stating that their governments control the flow of information and censor journalists who defy them by using tactics including arrest, torture or killing.
In contrast, Norway ranked as the safest country, a title it has held for the past three years. Finland received second place.
Only 24 percent of the 180 countries in the report were given the rank of being “safe” or “satisfactory” for the press. This is lower than the 2018 Index, which gave 26 percent of countries “safe” or “satisfactory” rankings.
“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”
Woman Wanted Over Columbine Threats Found Dead
- After a day-long manhunt, the woman who posed as a threat to Denver area schools has been found dead by FBI officials.
- Sol Pais was known to have an obsession with Columbine and had made credible threats to the area, causing schools to close on Wednesday as a result.
Woman Found After Search
Officials have confirmed that a woman whom FBI officials were searching for after allegedly making threats to Denver-area schools has been found dead.
On Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, Colorado Police, Jefferson County Police, and the Denver FBI were actively searching for an eighteen-year-old woman named Sol Pais.
At 10:44 a.m. local time, they announced that there was no longer a threat to the area, but did not say whether or not they had found Pais. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader confirmed at a press conference an hour later that she had been found dead on a search. The cause of death appeared to be a self-inflicted gun wound.
According to the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, Pais traveled from her home state of Florida to Colorado on Monday night and bought a shotgun and ammunition upon arriving. She was known to be “infatuated” with the school shooting that occurred at Columbine in 1999, killing 13 people. The twentieth anniversary of the tragic event is this week.
Authorities said Pais made threats that warranted investigation and was considered armed and dangerous. This prompted schools all school in the Denver Metropolitan area, where Columbine is located, to close on Wednesday. Several schools were also on lockdown on Tuesday afternoon.
The Denver FBI learned about Pais from the bureau’s Miami branch. They alerted the Denver branch of her travels, and of her past comments regarding Columbine, which have not been specified.
“She has expressed an infatuation with Columbine,” Dean Phillips, an FBI special agent said at a press conference on Tuesday. “With the events and shooting that happened tragically 20 years ago. Because of that, we were concerned.”
School Officials Look Forward
The superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, Dr. Jason Glass, thanked both school staff, as well as the public officers and officials who worked to find Pais.
“We are relieved that the threat to schools and the community is no longer present,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Executive of Safety and Security at Jeffco Public School, John McDonald, said that threats to this district are nothing new, but that everyone knew this was serious.
“We are used to threats at Columbine,” he said. “This felt different. This was different.”
The FBI is expected to hold a press conference later today. They are still processing the scene where Pais died.
Dr. Glass said that schools will be open tomorrow with extra safety and security measures on site.