City to offer workshops to help people expunge marijuana convicts and seal some low-level offenses

Officials on Thursday announced a new program that will help residents expunge marijuana convictions, seal low-level misdemeanor and felony records, clear minor warrants and convert court fines to community service in some cases.

The Restoration Initiative for Safety and Employment (RISE) program in Long Beach could impact thousands of people, helping them clear some minor convictions so they can improve their chances of finding a job, officials said.

Funded through $200,000 in this year’s city budget, RISE also will assist people in finding employment, education and other benefits.

City Prosecutor Doug Haubert’s office will run the program in partnership with organizations such as the Long Beach Bar Association, the Long Beach Ministers Alliance and the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office.

In a news conference on Thursday, Haubert said the program will make Long Beach safer by helping to create employment opportunities for those who need them the most.

“Old criminal convictions, even minor convictions, can make it harder to get a job,” he said. “They can make it harder to get promoted and earn more income.”

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said she’s also planning to participate in the program. The expungement of marijuana convictions could impact about 160,000 people in Los Angeles County, she added.

Under RISE, the city will hold four workshops starting in January where individuals can receive in-person assistance from attorneys.

The city will also offer free, year-round assistance for adult misdemeanor cases, which include theft, vandalism, drug possession, public intoxication, driving on a suspended license and violation of city codes.

The state for many years has allowed the expungement of certain felony and misdemeanor convictions, and with the legalization of marijuana, many prior convictions for marijuana-related crimes are now eligible for dismissal or reduction.

Officials said many people are not aware that they’re eligible to have their convictions sealed or reduced.

The convictions will be examined on a case-by-case basis and people may need to consult their individual attorney.

Mayor Robert Garcia said the program can remove barriers preventing people from joining the workforce.

“We have so many people in our community that just want another chance to get to work and be part of our economy,” he said. “This innovative program will provide an avenue for justice-involved individuals to get their lives back on track.”

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].