Latest Assignment for @SFchronicle on California lawmakers seeking to seal felony records for past offenders
It’s been more than 15 years since Fiani Johnson was sentenced to a year in prison for having marijuana in the trunk of her car. But the counselor from Fremont can’t seem to shake her old record.
Every time she applies for a job, Johnson, 44, said she feels a wave of anxiety because she knows she will be questioned about her conviction. Even as she works to complete her master’s degree, she worries a state board might not approve her counseling license. And she still struggles to find housing in a nice neighborhood.
“I feel today that it’s still, still haunting me,” she said. “Once they see that charge, they really don’t want to know the details. It’s hard to process rejection when you’re doing the right thing.”
Johnson is one of 8 million people in California — one in five state residents — who have a past arrest or conviction on their record. Criminal justice advocates say those records, due to the popularity of criminal background checks, often unfairly prevent many from living normal lives, sometimes decades after they’ve completed their prison sentence and parole.
Democratic legislators are on the brink of approving a bill that would allow many to have their prior offenses shielded from public view. SB371 would let people with prior arrests or convictions have their record electronically sealed if they’ve completed their sentence and kept clear of the justice system.” (Dustin Gardiner)