CA Governor Newsom Signs Simplified Criminal Record Exemption into Law
October 3, 2022
A New Way of Life
Los Angeles (September 28, 2022) – A New Way of Life is pleased to announce that AB 1720—Care facilities: criminal background checks—has been signed into law by California Governor Newsom. AB 1720 expands the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) authority to grant a simplified criminal record exemption to applicants seeking a license or position within community care facilities and removes the existing candor trap for applicants. AB 1720 will benefit the tens of thousands of community care applicants whose background checks are unnecessarily delayed and help reduce the statewide shortage of community care workers.
AB 1720 addresses an urgent need for the State of California to expand CDSS’s authority to grant a simplified criminal record exemption. Each year, tens of thousands of community care applications are unnecessarily held for review for an average of 149–170 days. AB 1720 will help clear this application bottleneck by enabling a wider range of applicants to be processed via a simplified criminal record exemption which take on average only 15–20 days to review. AB 1720 will also remove the existing candor trap for applicants by removing the requirement that an applicant sign a declaration under penalty of perjury regarding any prior criminal convictions. This unnecessary requirement punished applicants for honest mistakes in the application process.
The removal of the candor trap is especially important for formerly incarcerated communities. “It’s removal protects formerly incarcerated applicants from the presumption that they are not of good character and/or rehabilitated due to the inability to accurately recall details or mistakenly believing that certain details do not need to be disclosed,” stated Natalie Roberts, Senior Staff Attorney at A New Way of Life. “The requirement was always unnecessary as CDSS completes its own background check independent of the answers provided,” continued Roberts.
A New Way of Life worked with California Assembly Member Chris Holden and 23 organizations, including the East Bay Community Law Center, Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, and National Association of Social Workers (California Chapter), to support the passage of AB 1720. That it received support from such a broad coalition—with no opposition—is a testament of the need and strength of this bill.
About A New Way of Life
In 1998, Susan Burton founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL) to help women, families, and communities break the cycle and heal from the formidable experiences of incarceration. ANWOL advances multi-dimensional solutions to the effects of incarceration, including: (1) providing housing and support to formerly incarcerated women for successful community reentry, family reunification, and individual healing; (2) working to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people; and (3) empowering, organizing, and mobilizing formerly incarcerated people as advocates for social change and personal transformation.
A New Way of Life is confronting harmful stereotypes and demonstrating that alternatives to incarceration are possible. ANWOL is breaking the cycle of recidivism, repairing families, and developing leaders. The organization’s approach is built upon four key values that are necessary to promote community reentry after incarceration: (1) every person has inherent value and holds the power of possibility and transformation within them; (2) public resources are better invested in opportunities for transformation than on prisons and punishment; (3) formerly incarcerated people must be at the forefront in creating solutions to the incarceration crisis; and (4) incarceration of a family member affects the entire family and the healing process must involve the entire family. For more information about A New Way of Life Reentry Project, visit: www.anewwayoflife.org.