April 24 to 30th marked National Reentry Week in every state across the US. While this weekly acknowledgement might mean little to those unfamiliar with the term “re-entry,” it meant everything to ex-offenders that are trying to re-enter the world after serving their prison terms.
National Reentry Week and Ex-Offenders
All 50 states across the nation offered activities focused on connecting ex-convicts connect with housing, legal support, employment, and community based sources outside of prison. Programs like this allow ex-convicts to shed what is commonly referred to as “The Scarlet F” stigma that goes along with having been convicted of a crime.
There are so many laws in place to keep from ever being truly rehabilitated. One such barrier is the fact that an ex-offender is required to check off the “criminal felon box” on every job application they fill out. Additionally, ex-offenders are often not able to obtain ID cards, thus making it close to impossible to even obtain a driver’s license, apply for any form of credit, or even take out a basic bank loan or open a bank account. Because of these barriers, it’s no wonder that 75% of former inmates return to prison.
Shedding Light on Reentry
For thousands of ex-offenders across the nation, National Reentry Week was a very important one. At the April Reentry Conference, Mark Holden, a prisoner reentry activist and Koch Industries representative expressed a sentiment that many others agree on: “Jobs are the best way to stop a bullet.” As part of their corporate model, Koch Industries offers employment to ex-offenders. Holden went on to say that Koch Industries has found their previously incarcerated employees to be “humble, hardworking, and hungry.”
Chances Across the Nation for Reentry
It seems that barriers for reentry are being removed though. Out of the 50 states, 34 have implemented legislation for criminal reform. And the effects of that litigation has already been seen and documented. Decreases in violent crime rates and decreases in the monetary need from federal systems as well as statistically safer and thriving communities.
Los Angeles has even recently made headway into breaking down barriers for ex-offenders. Recently, a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has been awarded in hopes of helping LA-area ex-offenders 25 and younger get jobs. The program aims to help these young ex-offenders obtain employment, housing, and driver’s licenses. The only requirement is that the ex-offender take the initiative.
As DOJ Director of Access to Justice Lisa Foster explained, “All of us make mistakes. What we know about young people is that they make lots of mistakes.”
“Certificate of Rehabilitation” for Reentry
There are many Californians who can’t get a job or move on with their lives due to damaged reputations because they’ve served time for their criminal mistakes. One way for some people to clear their record is a court order called a California Certificate of Rehabilitation. Although the individual’s criminal record isn’t erased, the Certificate states their criminal history is in the past. This Certificate of Rehabilitation lets the rest of society know the individual has satisfactorily served their time and has become a “rehabilitated” and upstanding member of their community.
Definition of “Certificate of Rehabilitation”
The California Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court ordered document stating that you have served your time for any past criminal activities. It can help you with employment opportunities as well as obtaining professional licenses. If you have been convicted and served time for sexual crimes, in some instances it also removes the requirement of registering as a sex offender.
Who Can Obtain a “Certificate of Rehabilitation” for Reentry?
California Penal Code sections 4852.01 - 4852.21 determine who can obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation and how they are issued.
To obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation an individual or their attorney must file a petition with the California Superior Court. Eligibility requirements include a “satisfactory period of rehabilitation” consisting of a specific length of time during which you have not participated in any criminal activity. This period consists of five years as a California resident immediately prior to filing your petition plus two to five years determined by the specific crime you were convicted of. Consulting a qualified criminal attorney will let you know if you have met the required “period of rehabilitation” as well as help you file the necessary petition and required application forms, character letters, and other related documents.
Reentry Hearing to Obtain a “Certificate of Rehabilitation”
After receiving the petition, a hearing date will be set by the court. Before the hearing you should try and meet with the agency that originally prosecuted you in order to get their support. It takes an average of 120 days from the time the petition is file to the hearing date. This varies depending on the county you live in.
At your hearing, you must present favorable evidence in order to convince the judge you should receive a Certificate of Rehabilitation. Rarely will the judge not require you to personally attend this hearing.
“Certificate of Rehabilitation” Not an Order to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records
Different from the motion to seal and destroy your arrest records, a Certificate of Rehabilitation applies to criminal convictions as well as arrests. While this Certificate won’t erase the past, it can help restore some civil rights that you lost when you were convicted. Once your Certificate of Rehabilitation has been granted, there’s an automatic application filed for a Governor’s Pardon, the ultimate Certificate of Rehabilitation.
When faced with serious penalties or spending time in jail or prison, you need to retain a criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court. All criminal cases are different, so the first thing a criminal defense lawyer can determine is what arguments and factors can be used to remove any charges pertaining to the alleged crime.
A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Reduce Sentencing with “Plea Bargains” or “Deals”
In order to get a reduced sentence, your criminal defense lawyer with help negotiate a “deal” or “plea bargain” with the prosecutor. In some cases it will not only reduce your sentence but in many cases may even eliminate some if not all the charges against you. If the court finds you guilty of the charges, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate lesser time served or a rehabilitation program which can help prevent you winding up in the criminal justice system again. When discussing your case, your criminal defense lawyer can advise the best way to go in order to reduce your sentence. Sometimes pleading guilty can result in your having a shorter sentence.
Your Criminal Defense Lawyer and Emotional Help
While a criminal defense lawyer isn’t a therapist, they may help you deal with the emotions that accompany criminal trials. They can help by explaining the realities of the legal system and discuss what you may be up against during trial. Since they are well versed in the system, your criminal defense lawyer can also go over court rules and regulations, and the best way to navigate through the system. Also critical in negotiating a reduced sentence are the “unwritten rules” which a criminal defense lawyer is also well versed in.
Your Criminal Defense Lawyer and Accessibility
When it comes to evidence and witness statements, a criminal defense lawyer is better able to procure the necessary evidence and statements in order to help build your case. Witnesses may fear for their safety if speaking openly, but discussions with a criminal defense lawyer can help alleviate their fears in order to provide the testimony necessary to help clear your case.
If you are faced with criminal charges and possible jail time, you need to consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Sevens Legal, APC today for a free consultation.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
3555 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 297-2800