When this year began, I wrote a column called “20/20: The Year of Perfect Vision.” In that column, I expressed a long list of hopes for the year 2020 including the hope that the civil rights of registrants would be restored. As the end of the year 2020 approaches, it is time to reflect upon what progress has been made toward that important goal.
The most significant step may have been a decision this week by the California Supreme Court that recognized the rights of registrants in custody to be provided an opportunity for early parole consideration. It is a right that the state’s jailers, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, refused to honor for more than three years despite an amendment to the state’s constitution that provided that right.
The most significant step could also have been ACSOL’s efforts responding to proposed federal regulations that, if finalized, would create great uncertainty in the lives of most registrants and their families. The uncertainty would concern, but not be limited to, domestic and international travel, as well as new federal registration requirements not supported by state and local governments.
Or the most significant step may have been ACSOL’s challenge to in-person registration requirements during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges originated during a time when trial courts in various counties throughout the state were closed, which required the filing of a lawsuit with the state’s highest court. Ultimately, registrants were provided with opportunities to register remotely, without risking exposure to COVID-19.
It’s also possible that the most significant step may have been the filing of the 44th lawsuit in California state and federal courts challenging residency restrictions, that is, where a registrant may live. Such restrictions often tear families apart, including minor children who cannot live with their parents and parents who cannot live with their children because their family home is too close to a park or a school. Thanks to ACSOL’s efforts, residency restrictions are virtually eliminated in California.
There are other significant steps made toward the goal of restoring registrants’ civil rights in 2020. For example, ACSOL successfully challenged the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters’ policy that prohibited all registrants from serving as poll workers. ACSOL also successfully challenged a parole condition that prevented a female registrant from living in her home, and instead forced her to reside in her car despite the physical and emotional damage caused by this involuntary homelessness. The list also includes obtaining a professional license for a former registrant and conducting the organization’s annual conference online for the first time.
There are two smaller steps taken this year that have not yet been recognized for their long-term impact upon achieving the important goal of restoring registrants’ civil rights. Both of those steps come in the form of publications. First, there is the law review article written by ACSOL Board Member and Southwestern Law School professor Catherine Carpenter entitled “All Except for: Animus that Drives Exclusions in Criminal Justice Reform, 50 SW L.Rev. 1 (2020). Professor Carpenter’s article identifies and analyzes many laws that reduce criminal penalties or collateral consequences of conviction, but that categorically exclude registrants from those benefits. For example, most individuals convicted of taking merchandise valued at $950 or less will be convicted of shoplifting, a misdemeanor; however, registrants convicted of the same act will convicted of a felony.
Second, there is a book written by me as the Executive Director of ACSOL, that captures the efforts of this organization as well as the entire registrant community. The name of that book, Show Up – Stand Up – Speak Up, in fact has become a mantra of this organization. There are many purposes of the book, including education of the registrant community and the public, as well as providing a fundraising opportunity for ACSOL so that it can continue its important work. Copies of the book are available on Amazon.
Upon reflection, much progress has been made in the year 2020 toward restoring the civil rights of registrants. However, significant efforts are still necessary to reach that worthy goal. I look forward to working with you toward that goal in 2021.
— by Janice Bellucci
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