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Victory! California Just Reformed Its Gang Databases and Made Them More Accountable

California Sunshine

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed A.B. 90, a bill that EFF advocated for to bring additional accountability and transparency to the various shared gang databases maintained by the State of California. With a campaign organized by a broad coalition of civil liberties organizations—such as Youth Justice Coalition, National Immigration Law Center, Urban Peace Institute, among others—the much needed reform was passed.

Why Reform was Desperately Needed

The California State Auditor found the state’s gang databases to be riddled with errors, containing records on individuals who should never have been included in the first place and information that should been purged a long time ago. The investigation also found that the system lacks basic oversight safeguards, and went as far as saying that due to the inaccurate information in the database, it’s crime-fighting value was “diminished.”

What the Reform Brings

The legislation brings a broad package of reforms. It codifies new standards and regulations for operating a shared gang database, including audits for accuracy and proper use. The bill would also create a new technical advisory committee comprised of all stakeholders—including criminal defense representatives, civil rights and immigration experts, gang-intervention specialist, and a person personally impacted because of being labeled as a gang member—as opposed to just representatives from law enforcement. Further, the legislation would ensure that the criteria for inclusion in the database and how long the information is retained is supported by empirical research.

Today, California has passed common-sense reforms that were desperately needed to protect its residents’ civil liberties. Californians should be proud.

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