Recently, a judge in California cleared thousands of criminal records with one stroke of his pen. He did it thanks to a ground-breaking new algorithm that reduces a process that took months to mere minutes. The programmers behind it say: we’re just getting started solving America’s urgent problems.
Piero Salazar is sitting at a wooden table, swamped by paperwork. His anxious family looks on.
He’s one of around 50 or so people who have come to this community centre in San Fernando, near Los Angeles, to take part in an “expungement clinic” - a free service for those looking to get their criminal records removed or reduced. A team of lawyers, working pro bono, sit behind a long counter and call people forward when their number is up.
On this Saturday morning, most here, Mr Salazar included, are seeking to have cannabis-related convictions expunged under California’s Proposition 64, a measure passed in 2016 that made marijuana legal in the state. As part of the new law, those with prior convictions could now seek to have them struck off their record.
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