Tuesday, December 1, 2009 · by Tamara Aparton
***Note to media: Interviews with Clean Slate participants can be arranged prior to the event***
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 3, from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm
WHAT: A public reception celebrating the 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking Clean Slate program, which helps those convicted of crimes in San Francisco to clear their criminal history.
WHO: Dozens of participants who have gone on to lead successful lives, remarks by District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and Public Defender Jeff Adachi, as well as awards for community partners who have contributed to the program during the past decade. The event is being co-sponsored by the law firm of Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley. Live music featuring Simply Sara www.myspace.com/sanginsara
WHERE: Westbay Conference Center, 1290 Fillmore Street (at Eddy). For more information or to RSVP, please visit www.sfpublicdefender.org
SAN FRANCISCO – A decade ago, the San Francisco Public Defender’s office launched a program unlike any at the time– wiping the slate clean for people whose past mistakes marred their chances of a new job or better life.
Past participants of the Clean Slate program have gone on to secure jobs with the City of San Francisco, return to college to earn degrees, or serve the community through nonprofits, nursing, social work, or mentoring current inmates.
The groundbreaking program has been since replicated by several other counties in California, including Alameda and Santa Clara. Clean Slate was initiated by Public Defender Jeff Adachi in 1999 when he served as the office’s Chief Attorney. Participants must be able to demonstrate that they have lived crime-free lives since completing their sentences.
“Many people didn’t even realize that they could ask the court to remove the stain of a criminal conviction upon a showing of rehabilitation,” Adachi said. Adachi noted that before the Clean Slate program began, the Public Defender’s office was only clearing about 70 cases a year. Adachi estimates that the program now clears 2,000 records each year and has cleared 15,000 records over the past decade.
While the stain of a criminal conviction can ruin a candidate’s job chances in the best of economic times, succeeding in the current downturn can be nearly impossible for those with a criminal record, even if the crime was committed years ago.
“The Clean Slate program helps by assisting individuals who are concerned that their criminal history will affect their future employability or might be used to deny other essential services, such as housing, that a person may need,” said Deputy Public Defender Simin Shamji, who manages the Public Defender’s office’s reentry programs. The program received 2006 Program of the Year award from the statewide Public Defender’s association, as well as the city’s Managerial Excellence Team Award in 2004.
The office operates four community clinics, staffed by an attorney, where Clean Slate program services are available on-site. The Public Defender also has drop-in hours every Tuesday at its main office from 9-11:00am, at 555 Seventh Street.