Governor Jerry Brown signed State Senator Ricardo Lara’s bill eliminating fees to seal the records of formerly incarcerated youth today, Lara’s office announced this morning.
The bill, SB 504, was authored by Lara and seeks to ease re-entry into society for incarcerated youth, aiming to ultimately decrease recidivism.
“SB504 will help reduce recidivism among juvenile youth by removing the fee to seal their records and thereby helping them secure permanent employment,” said Lara in a statement. “It’s a major victory for juvenile justice reform and for youth trying to turn their lives around.”
A release issued by Lara’s office notes that juvenile expungement fees (also known as sealing a juvenile’s past record) presents significant cost barriers to youth attempting to re-enter society and turn their lives around.
Specifically, youth are often discouraged from sealing their records even if they qualify for expungement, because they are first required to pay restitution (money they owe) before sealing their records, according to Lara’s office. This makes finding gainful employment more difficult and is counterintuitive, as the recently released youth need a job to obtain the necessary funding required of them.
SB 504 erases these fees for applicants under the age of 26 and “clarifies that unfulfilled orders or conditions of restitution shall not bar record sealing.” With the new law, counties can still collect fees owed to them, but youth can more easily acquire the means of paying the county back through new jobs.
“Ultimately, this bill gives youth an opportunity to become responsible, law abiding citizens, which is the ultimate goal of our corrections and rehabilitation system – it gives them an opportunity for a fresh start,” said Lara in a statement.
“This bill allows hundreds of youth with a juvenile record to have a second chance,” said Kate Weisburd, director & clinical instructor at the Youth Defender Clinic East Bay Community Law Center in a statement. “By removing the financial barrier to record-sealing, this bill sends the clear message that we believe in allowing young people to move on from past mistakes.”
Above, left: file photo.