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The Justice and Reentry Society Hosts “Know Your Rights” Event

April 7, 2015

By Negin Nazi, 2L, JRS Social Chair

The Justice and Reentry Society (JRS) hosted their second “Know Your Rights” event at TJSL on Saturday March 28, 2015. The purpose of the event was to assist those with a desire to transition to becoming productive members of society but were being held back by their conviction. With an environment encouraging dialogue and interaction, the Town Hall Meeting style event, open to the community, focused on resources and rights for those with criminal records. Information was presented, followed by a Q&A session detailing the criminal expungement process, housing, employment, education, Proposition 47, and 211 resources.

Over fifty community members were in attendance representing the local formerly incarcerated population as well as representatives from various public and private organizations catered towards assisting them. The organizations present were: San Diego Dads Corps, San Diego Clean Slate Clinic, San Diego Reentry Roundtable, Volunteers of America, Amity Foundation, Exodus Recovery Agency, SDRC Pathways to Success, Center for Employment Opportunities, San Diego Rescue Mission, The Office of Council District 8, City of San Diego Positive Gentlemen, Paralegal Group Services, and PATH.

Keiara Auzenne, Co-founder and Coordinator of the San Diego Clean Slate Clinic, Board Member Re-Entry Roundtable, and local defense attorney, assisted by answering specific questions with regards to Proposition 47 and criminal expungement. Ms. Auzenne also discussed 211 San Diego, which provides free resources and information about community and health services. In many instances an expungement of an individual’s criminal record is the first step in giving them a fresh start. It enables individuals to become productive members of the community through increased employment and educational opportunities.

The JRS also provided information about rights to employment, job training, and education. Participants were provided job applications from prospective employers who hire individuals with criminal records. The JRS also addressed common misconceptions, such as people with criminal convictions are not eligible for student aid as well as step-by-step instructions on how to apply for the funds.

JRS President, Nicolas Spigner, discussed recently passed Proposition 47, which reduces qualifying felonies to misdemeanors under certain circumstances. Spigner stated, “I am happy to be a part of something that can successfully help people turn their life around, these small steps are indicative of the transition these people are willing to make to separate themselves from the stigma that a felony conviction entails.”

In addition, information was provided about affordable housing resources as well as local laws pertaining to the rights of tenants with criminal records. Marvin Winters, a formerly incarcerated individual, who has now turned his life around and is working with San Diego Dads Corps to help others successfully transition into society, was also in attendance. Not only does Mr. Winters’ success story inspire similarly situated individuals but he was also able to provide valuable information to attendees facing difficulties obtaining housing stemming from their criminal record.