Clean Slate Project could help Valley residents start over

As far as the overall benefit to society, the public defender's office says it helps reduce recidivism.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The process of landing a job or leasing a home or apartment isn't always easy.

It's even harder for those who have a criminal history.

"A lot of people who commit a crime, it was a mistake in their life," says Tulare County Senior Deputy Public Defender Megan Casebeer. "It's something that they've never repeated again and it feels almost like they carry this scarlet letter with them if you would."

Some may not know that there's help available, for free.

At the Tulare County Public Defender's Office, paralegals and attorneys work to petition the court to clean up criminal records of residents convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.

"Prop 47 is like the first step," says Mona Flores. "So first, we see if anyone is eligible for that. We get that reduced and then we proceed to the expungement."

Recently, Flores gave a presentation about the Clean Slate Project to students at Porterville College, describing the different forms of relief, from expungements, or dismissals, to early termination of probation.

"So if anybody's currently on probation under the old terms, you can petition the court to change those terms to the new terms," she said.

"It's not always a dismissal," Casebeer said. "If it's a felony, sometimes it's a reduction to a misdemeanor. But it often results in a lesser crime being shown on their record and the whole point is to do exactly what the program states: to give somebody a clean slate. Somebody who, as I said, paid their dues to society, to give them the opportunity to apply for a job without having to have that pop up on their record."

As far as the overall benefit to society, the public defender's office says it helps reduce recidivism.

"There are tons of studies that show that if you have the ability to get a job and provide for yourself and for your family, the idea that you would commit a crime, it just flatlines," Casebeer said. "It goes way, way, way down."

The Tulare County Public Defender's Office will continue to spread the word about the Clean Slate Project in the months to come. They say even if you don't think you're eligible for help, ask, because you might be surprised.
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