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70 UCLA L. Rev. 1274 (2023)
Expedited Expungement and Its Limits: AB 2147 as a Peak of Progress

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Expedited Expungement and Its Limits:

AB   2147 as a Peak of Progress

Bradan Litzinger


In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom   signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2147, a bill
creating an expedited expungement  process for prisoners in California's Conservation Camp
Program.  This bill purportedly removed a barrier that kept formerly incarcerated firefighters
locked out of postrelease employment as professional firefighters. Experts and fire camp workers
alike praised the bill as righting a historic wrong and taking a decisive step toward rewarding
formerly incarcerated firefighters for their service to the state by offering them a pathway to
gainful employment. This Comment   uses two concepts from Critical Race Theory to unpack the
circumstances that gave rise to the bill and to analyze its impact on future campaigns for the rights
of people who are incarcerated.

The Comment   explores the racialized nature of prison labor in the United States generally, and
California specifically, as well as the racial politics at play in the fire camps. Then, it applies
Derrick Bell's interest convergence concept to show that the ongoing wildfire emergency, a shortage
of firefighters to combat it, and a groundswell of support for criminal justice reform and prison
abolition were all forces that coalesced to ensure passage of the bill at a time when a moral desire to
ensure fuller employment access for formerly incarcerated individuals may have been insufficient
to do so. The Comment  also speculates about the bill's limited positive effects in the future and
posits that it may be a peak of progress-another concept from Bell-which may have positive
effects in the near term but ultimately mask systemic issues of prison labor and stymie future efforts
of reform or abolition. Specifically, the bill may (1) obfuscate the ongoing difficulties experienced
by current and former prisoners, whether they are trained as firefighters or not, and (2) dissipate
political energy and enthusiasm for future reform or abolition efforts.

The Comment   concludes with recommendations  for more robust approaches to resolving issues
of employment  for formerly incarcerated firefighters. These recommendations are made in an
attempt to suggest more ambitious alternatives for future policy initiatives without disregarding
the positive value that many fire camp participants derive from the program, while centering their
experiences and needs in the determination of their future.


Bradan Litzinger received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 2022. He is the 2022-2023 FAIR

70 UCLA L. REV. 1274(2023)

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