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2021 New Laws | Here is what's new in California related to victim and criminal reform

California is changing the laws in 2021 to protect employees who were victims of crime or abuse and limiting the collection of fees related to criminal activities.

CALIFORNIA, USA — As a year of uncertainty has finally come to an end, 2021 has brought something that everyone can count on: new state laws. 

Here is what you need to know about these new California laws that are being enforced on the first day of 2021.

AB 2147

Summary:  Allows inmate firefighters to seek occupations as emergency first responders upon their release from prison.  

What's new: Assembly Bill 2147 would pave the way for inmates who are trained as emergency first responders to have their records cleared so they can seek employment as professional firefighters upon release from prison. 

Why is it needed: California has approximately 3,700 incarcerated individuals working at conservation camps under the California Conservation Camp program with approximately 2,600 of those being fire line-qualified.

After receiving valuable training and placing themselves in danger assisting firefighters to defend the life and property of Californians, incarcerated individual hand crew members face difficulty and obstacles in achieving employment due to their past criminal record.

Due to their service to the state of California in protecting lives and property, those incarcerated individual crew members that successfully complete their service in the conservation camps or successfully complete services as members of a county incarcerated individual hand crew, as determined by the appropriate county authority, and have been released from custody, should be granted special consideration relating to their underlying criminal conviction.

AB 2992

Summary: Expands leave protections afforded to an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to an employee who is a victim of a crime, as specified, and to an employee whose immediate family member is deceased as a direct result of a crime.

What's new: Assembly Bill 2992 will impose further limitations on employers from discharging, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of crime or abuse. 

Why is it needed:  According to the author, California State Assemblymember, Shirley Weber, this bill is needed to protect those most vulnerable. 

"During these uncertain times, those most vulnerable–including victims of violent crime–should not have to worry about losing their jobs when taking actions to protect their safety and health. AB 2992 will create a safe haven for survivors who need time to recover and get to safety following traumatic crimes, without the risk of losing their job. With this bill, California would expand protections for all victims of violent crime and help ensure victims keep their jobs so they can focus on recovery and safety."

AB 1869

Summary: Repeals the authority to collect many various fees contingent upon a criminal arrest, prosecution, or conviction. 

What's new: Assembly Bill 1869 would make the unpaid balance of these court-imposed costs unenforceable and uncollectible and would require any portion of a judgment imposing those costs to be vacated. 

Why is it needed:  According to the legislature findings, approximately 80 percent of Californians in jail are indigent and too many enter the criminal justice system due to the criminalization of their poverty. 

Because these fees are often assigned to people who simply cannot afford to pay them, they make poor people, their families, and their communities poorer. 

Criminal justice fees have no formal punitive or public safety function. Instead, they undermine public safety because the debt they cause can limit access to employment, housing, education, and public benefits, which creates additional barriers to successful reentry. Research also shows that criminal justice fees can push individuals into underground economies and can result in individuals turning to criminal activity or predatory lending to pay their debts.

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