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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trucking companies look to felons to fill thousands of driver openings

By KEVIN SMITH | | San Gabriel Valley Tribune

 Trucking companies look to felons to fill thousands of driver openings
John Lauria spends his working hours driving a truck loaded with cases of juice, tea and energy drinks.
It’s quite an about-face for the 49-year-old Rosemead man who spent 30 years in and out of prison for drug and burglary offenses.
Since his last release three years ago, Lauria struggled to find a solid job. But that changed in February when, seemingly against all odds, he was hired as a truck driver for Haralambos Beverage Co. in City of Industry.
“When I applied for the job I was honest with them,” Lauria said. He got the job and now earns $17 an hour.
Lauria owes his turnaround in part to a growing U.S. labor shortage. As the long-haul trucking industry scrambles to fill openings for drivers, more than 40 large operators have tapped an unlikely labor source — felons.
The American Trucking Associations says the industry needs another 51,000 drivers to keep pace with increased shipping demands from Amazon, Walmart and other mega-retailers. The demand has prompted an increasing number of trucking companies to give non-violent, ex-offenders a second look.

Steps to a new life

Making the leap from inmate to employee doesn’t happen overnight. Training, either in prison or soon after release, is a key part of the transition.
El Monte Truck Driving school in Irwindale is among those helping get felons to work. Louie Pena, who handles recruiting and placement there, said the school skips background checks as it’s well known the trucking industry is often a lifeline for people with criminal histories.
“When someone pays $4,000 to $8,000 for training … they wouldn’t put up that kind of money if they weren’t serious,” he said.  John Kearney, CEO of Advanced Training Systems, said hiring felons makes sense, as these job candidates are especially eager to find work. Kearney’s Florida-based company makes virtual simulators used to train truck drivers.
“The concern is where you draw the line in terms of their record,” he said.

Case-by-case basis

Knight Transportation, a Phoenix-based trucking company with local facilities in Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga, hires felons. But they are heavily vetted, according to Vice President T.J. Presley.
Applicants are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, he said, which includes checking their recent and past history while also looking at where they are in life now. 
“There are a lot of great people out there who just came upon bad times,” Presley said.
Knight doesn’t hire felons whose convictions were as recent as five years ago. But those who are hired make good money.
“Entry-level drivers earn somewhere in the mid-$40,000-to-$50,000 range, and seasoned drivers can earn six figures,” Presley said. “We see a lot of turnover in the trucking industry because people with good, clean driving records are in high demand.”
R&R Transportation in Greensboro, N.C., also hires felons — providing that their crimes were nonviolent.
“If someone has a criminal record because they were arrested for drugs, whether it was 25 years ago or five years ago, that doesn’t matter,” company President Karl Robinson said. “But I wouldn’t hire anyone who was convicted of murder or did sex crimes.”
Help For Felons, a website that provides support and resources for felons, lists more than 40 trucking firms that hire drivers with criminal backgrounds. They include Swift TransportationJ.B. Hunt Transport Services, Knight TransportationBarr-Nunn Transportation and Western Express, among others.
Nine of the companies hire people with convictions that are 10 years old or more while others will consider applicants whose convictions occurred as recently as five years ago. Still, others hire on a case-by-case basis.

A good time to be looking

The current climate is good for felons in search of work, according to economist Chris Thornberg, a founding partner with Beacon Economics.
“The shortage of truck drivers is just one reflection of the broader economic situation,” he said. “There are more job openings right now across the economy than there are people who want to work. So people who didn’t have that chance three, four or five years ago now have a chance.”
But they have some catching up to do. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4 percent in January, its lowest level in a decade, yet the jobless rate among the formerly incarcerated stood at 27 percent.
“Right now, if you have a record no one will hire you unless the company has a policy of accepting ex-offenders,” Kearney said. “There are plenty of people out there who have made mistakes in their lives but would have a tendency to go in the right direction if they had a job.”

Employment drives recidivism rates down

Landing a job also could keep felons from a return trip to prison.
More than half a million people are released from federal and state jails and prisons in the U.S. each year and about two-thirds will be rearrested within three years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice.
But a study by America Works and the Manhattan Institute shows recidivism rates dropped significantly for nonviolent offenders who found work shortly after leaving prison.
In prison-to-work programs in six cities across the country, states with overall recidivism rates of about 31 percent to 70 percent saw those rates plummet to as low as 3.3 percent for felons placed in jobs shortly after their release.

Ban the Box

California is among more than 30 states that have adopted a “ban the box” law. That prohibits private businesses with five or more workers from making pre-offer inquiries regarding a job applicant’s criminal history. Inquiries are allowed only after a conditional offer of employment is made.
Despite that law and a willingness on the part of many trucking companies to hire felons, driver shortages are still common. While R&R Transportation has 14 drivers and 13 trucks, Robinson said he’s always in the hole.
“You never have enough,” he said. “Once they get two years under their belt, other companies will hire them. You’re always going to have some attrition. But if you get the right person and they meld with the culture of the business, they will stay. It takes time to get good people.”
Lauria plans to become one of those “good” people. He hopes to gain a strong foothold in the trucking industry — and stay here.
“Getting this job is the best thing I ever did” he said. “Definitely.”

  Trucking companies look to felons to fill thousands of driver openings

Trucking Jobs for Felons

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Monday, March 18, 2019


A criminal record shouldn’t always be a dealbreaker when it comes to hiring. 

Martha Stewart. Johnny Cash. Mahatma Gandhi. Reese Witherspoon. Susan B. Anthony.

Each of these individuals garnered fame for their talents, be it on screen or in inciting significant social and cultural changes. What do they all have in common other than celebrity status?

They all have an arrest record. 

Just hearing the term “ex-con” makes one think of fearsome beings that serve no use to society other than keeping a prison cell occupied. The thing is, one-third of working adults in the U.S. possess a criminal record, and not all of them fit the stereotype of a grizzled, unhinged, tattooed entity that we see in TV shows and movies. Some individuals had a terrible upbringing and turned their lives around behind bars, while others were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Since humans are imperfect by nature, hiring managers and business owners ought to consider cutting some slack to those who have repaid their debt to society. All things considered, there are certain crimes that are more forgivable than others (i.e. petty larceny vs. first-degree murder). Depending on the nature of the crime, how long ago it occurred, and the industry an offender is looking to work in, hiring managers and business owners should keep an open mind when a prospective employee reveals a criminal history.

As it turns out, employing a felon has more benefits than you think:

  • An ex-con is less likely to re-offend when employed. By having a schedule and people depending on them to do a job, they’re less inclined to slip back into old habits.

  • Your organization could receive tax benefits for hiring someone with a record. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring those who have difficulties gaining employment, such as possessing a criminal record.

  • They have intense vocational training. Many prisons provide job and educational programs that prepare them to reintegrate into society.

  • There is a lower turnover of personnel. They worked very hard to get a job with you in the first place, which means they’re going to work hard to keep it.
  • To an outsider, your company will be considered a beacon of hope to those who are looking to get their lives straightened out. It can take a lot of courage to give someone a second chance, and by doing so, it can humanize your business. 

For those who have never been arrested, it’s easy to turn away someone with a stain on their record. However, just because a bad decision was made does not make an individual any less worthy of having something to offer society.

Recall those arrested individuals I listed above. Martha inspired us to find joy in decorating, crafting, cooking, and baking. Johnny was, and always will be, our Man in Black. Gandhi told us to be the change we wish to see in the world. Reese got us hooked on Big Little Lies and her Draper James dresses. Susan helped get American women the right to vote.

We all make mistakes. We all have something to offer in spite of our pasts. Let’s not be too quick to judge, shall we?

This article first appeared at

 Companies that hire felons

Jobs for Ex-offenders and Felons: Where can Ex-offenders Find Jobs

Jobs for Ex-offenders and Felons: Ten Steps to Getting a Job with a Criminal Record

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Nonviolent Ex-Offenders Offer Potential Labor Source for Trucking Industry

ATS’s John Kearney calls for sensible hiring practices, effective accelerated training, and national “ban the box” laws to make the most of an opportunity both for the trucking industry and for society.  MARCH 04, 2019

According to the American Trucking Association, this country’s long-haul trucking industry needs about 51,000 more drivers than it currently has to meet demand for shipping capacity from companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart.[1] Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4.0% in January, its lowest point in a decade and less than half of its recession-era level of October 2008.[2] “At the same time,” says John Kearney, CEO, Advanced Training Systems LLC, “there is a segment of the population looking eagerly for employment.” Kearney, whose company is a leading designer and manufacturer of virtual simulators for driver training, among other applications, adds, “Formerly incarcerated people, who currently have a 27% unemployment rate[3], are a largely untapped resource that could help the U.S. trucking industry fill its urgent need for new drivers.”

A frequently raised objection to hiring ex-offenders is the recidivism issue. More than half a million people are released from federal and state jails and prisons in the United States each year, and of those, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, about two-thirds will be rearrested within three years.[4] A joint study by America Works and the Manhattan Institute, however, notes Kearney, showed that recidivism rates dropped significantly for nonviolent offenders who became employed shortly after leaving prison. In prison-to-work programs in six cities across the country, in fact, in states with overall recidivism rates ranging from about 31% to 70%, the rates for those placed in jobs shortly after their release ranged from 3.3% to 8%.[5]

While a criminal record was once considered a knockout factor in evaluating a prospective employee in many jurisdictions, there is now a wide range of state and local regulations regarding the use of criminal records in offering or refusing employment. The practice of removing the criminal record question from employment applications is commonly called “Ban the Box.” In some places, Ban the Box regulations are applicable where the employee lives, and in others where they work is performed. Never, says industry consultant Lana Batts, do they apply to where the employer is domiciled. “The very nature of trucking,” says Batts, “makes compliance with a diverse grab-bag of Ban the Box rules a significant challenge; the trucking in industry, which keenly understands the costs of the driver shortage, needs a national Ban the Box solution applicable wherever a driver might find himself or herself in the course of completing a shipment.”[6]

Another important factor in integrating ex-offenders into the driving workforce, notes Kearney, is a reasonably streamlined training process. One important component of streamlining is the use of computerized simulation to familiarize new drivers with the proper way to handle situations too dangerous to attempt in conventional behind-the-wheel training.

“As with the shortage of school bus drivers,” says ATS’s Kearney, “also a growing source of concern[7], advanced training simulators offer an economical and highly effective approach to increasing the available supply of long-haul truckers. The technology can both reduce the cost of training and produce better, safer drivers.”

About Advanced Training Systems LLC:
Advanced Training Systems (ATS) is a high-tech simulator technology and engineering firm that has revolutionized the design and manufacture of advanced training systems to improve training and create safer drivers. ATS, the holder of multiple patents in high-tech training simulation, has as its mission to provide this cutting-edge adaptive training to all involved in the transportation industry at an affordable cost, resulting in safer drivers/operators. For more information, visit

1.    Long, Heather, “America has a massive truck driver shortage. Here’s why few want an $80,000 job,” Washington Post, May 28, 2018. 
2.    “National Employment Monthly Update,” National Council of State Legislatures, February 1, 2019. 
3.    Straight, Brian, “In search of truck drivers, are felons the answer?” FreightWaves, October 24, 2018. 
4.    “Recidivism Rates ‘Unacceptably High,’ says Sessions,” The Crime Report, April 9, 2018. 
5.    Cove, Peter and Bose, Lee, “Immediate Access to Employment Reduces Recidivism,” Real Clear Politics, June 11, 2015. 
6.    Batts, Lana, “Opinion: Trucking Industry Needs ‘Ban the Box’ Solution,” Transport Topics, August 25, 2017. 
7.    Osunsami, Steve, “School-bus driver shortage across US sparks growing concern,” ABC News, August 15, 

Nonviolent Ex-Offenders Offer Potential Labor Source for Trucking Industry

Trucking Jobs for Felons

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Eric Mayo

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

I’m an entrepreneur, and I believe in giving ex-felons a second chance

If you’d told me 15 years ago today I’d be leading and running a fast-growing company, I would’ve called you crazy.

I experienced, shall we say, a pretty rebellious youth. To put it more accurately, I was not a good kid. I was arrested 17 times before my 18th birthday and several more arrests throughout my twenties and early thirties. After many run-ins with the law, I had to make a choice: go to jail or serve in the military.

I took the latter option. Five years as a Navy deep sea diver gave me a newfound purpose. But I found myself on the wrong side of the law again when I went down the path of selling illegal anabolic steroids. When I finally decided to abandon that life to build Nutrition Solutions–I found myself standing before a judge waiting to receive sentencing for crimes that I’d committed three years earlier.


The police prosecutor had recommended 24 months in state prison, and I walked into the courtroom that day not knowing if I would walk out on my own free will. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle, as the judge made a decision that allowed me to be where I am today. Although I had pleaded guilty for multiple felony charges, she decided not to send me to prison. Instead, she let me off with a one-year probation. She considered the strides I took to better my life and grow my business and recognized the efforts I had made to change for the better. That judge chose to see the best in me, despite my past circumstances.

I realized that not everyone in that position would have been as lucky. Many people who experience the criminal justice system won’t have the opportunity to prove themselves the way that I was able to. That day, I vowed to do everything in my power to help those with a troubled past, have hit rock bottom or who come from nothing to help them make positive transformations in their lives. Here’s what I learned.


e have a massive problem with incarceration and re-entry in America. One in three Americans have a criminal record, and 60% of those are unemployed one year after being released. Getting a job with a criminal record is almost impossible. As Rick Wartzman previously wrote for Fast Company, many businesses see this as a sign of “the kind of workers that they’ll prove to be,” no matter how committed the individuals are to bettering themselves.

Having hired former felons myself, I can say for sure that a mark on your criminal record doesn’t mean you can’t succeed and make something of yourself. It’s true that you can’t escape your past, but those who have struggled with life-altering circumstances or a troubled past still can create a productive life for themselves and the people around them. Pain makes you stronger–and adversity teaches you valuable lessons that you will not forget. I’ve found with the proper training, structure, and support those with criminal records can become productive employees and thriving members of society.


To be clear, I don’t give second chances to just anyone. I evaluate those with criminal records and/or a history of substance abuse on a case-by-case basis. Some acts and crimes don’t warrant a second chancexd5. The simple recipe for determining whether or not someone deserves another shot comes down to one element–whether or not that person has accepted full responsibility for their past actions.

Criminal record or not, you can judge a person’s character by the way they view their mistakes. Do they acknowledge it, or do they blame external circumstances? When they accept responsibility for the fact that they were the one who got themselves in that position, they also understand that they possess the ability to get themselves out.

Convicted felons and those who have served time in jail or prison also have been conditioned to living in very stressful environments and constantly being uncomfortable. This gives them a considerable advantage in the workplace when it comes to taking on new challenges, operating under pressure, and stepping out of their comfort zone. A lot of the times, the “uncomfortable situations” they may face at work are like Disney World compared to what they’ve lived through.

At Nutrition Solutions, we spend ample time strengthening each employee’s character, mindset, work ethic, and self-discipline through a mandatory personal development policy for every team member. Each day, we play motivational podcasts and e-books over the loudspeakers of the facility. We have a team briefing that includes 90 seconds of gratitude, and each team member hugs or shakes the hand of every other member. By focusing on the personal development of our team and recruiting those who are hungry for a second chance (sometimes their last), we’ve been able to grow the company more than 500% over the last three years.

A few short years ago, one of my closest friends, Lee Anderson, finished a six-year prison sentence. Throughout his time in prison, I always told him when he got out I would have a job for him and that we would do amazing things together. I picked him up that day and on the ride home, started immersing him in my sales calls to get him accustomed to the company and how we operate. Today, Lee is an incredibly high performer, serving as the director of client relations for Nutrition Solutions. He’s making a significant impact at our company, but more importantly he’s made extraordinary strides as a man, team member, husband, and father.

When your company culture and values spill over and impact your team’s personal lives positively, you know that the principles that you’re teaching at work are making a real difference. Not everyone will deserve a second chance, but I’ve learned it’s worth it to invest in those who have taken responsibility for their past mistakes and are hungry for an opportunity to create a better life for themselves and the people they care about.
Chris Cavallini is the founder of Nutrition Solutions, a lifestyle meal-prep company that provides healthy meals to clients globally.

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I’m an entrepreneur, and I believe in giving ex-felons a second chance

Eric Mayo

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance

Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance Latosha Poston says she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Her legal troubles began in her teens after her first child was born in Indianapolis. Over the years, bad decisions led to some arrests, some convictions.
Barbara Brosher/Indiana Public Media

Latosha Poston says she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Her legal troubles began in her teens after her first child was born in Indianapolis. Over the years, bad decisions led to some arrests, some convictions.

"Sometimes we get stuck in our past and let our past guide us," she says.

The 44-year-old has worked hard to straighten out her life. But her criminal records — all involving misdemeanors — continued to haunt her as she tried to find a decent job and place to live.

Then, while watching the local news, she heard about Indiana's Second Chance law, passed in 2013. It allows people to petition to remove their misdemeanor convictions and arrests from public view.

Indiana is among several states to change their approach to the restoration of a person's rights and status after an arrest or conviction. In the last two years, more than 20 states have expanded or added laws to help people move on from their criminal records — most involve misdemeanors. Marijuana legalization and decriminalization have played a big role in driving these reforms. Fairness is another factor, with lawmakers from both parties rethinking the long-term consequences of certain criminal records, as well as the economic impact of mass incarceration.

There are also purely economic reasons to encourage the sealing of criminal records.

"It hurts communities, it hurts counties and it hurts states if their citizens cannot be productively employed or aren't part of the tax base," says American University law professor Jenny Roberts, who has written extensively on the collateral consequences of convictions. "So there's certainly an economic incentive for allowing people to move beyond their criminal record."

The state-level reforms have helped tens of thousands of people across the United States.

Poston of Indianapolis is among them. After working in home health care for nearly 20 years and making just over $11 an hour, she landed a much better-paying job in a hospital as an operating room assistant once her records were sealed.

"I felt like something was lifted off," she says of her case. "Because now I kind of felt like a human."

With background checks ubiquitous for jobs, schools, mortgage applications and more, even one conviction — and sometimes even just one arrest — can dog people for years, critics say, relegating them to permanent second-class status.

"No one should underestimate how much even the most minor of misdemeanor convictions — including marijuana or trespassing or any kind of conviction — can affect someone's ability to get a job, to get housing and to function fully in society," says Roberts, who also co-directs the Criminal Justice Clinic at American University in Washington, D.C.

Time for change

The reform trend reflects an emerging consensus that the social and economic problems created by mass prosecution and incarceration call for a fundamental reimagining of the criminal justice system.

While reformers largely welcome the moves by states, there's concern that a patchwork of laws as well as steep legal fees, prosecutorial foot-dragging and other barriers have blunted what is otherwise seen as a rare area of bipartisan, effective reform.

Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance
The Expungement Help Desk in Indianapolis helps people with criminal records file petitions to get their records expunged or sealed.
Barbara Brosher/Indiana Public Media
"The states are really all over the map on this stuff, and they're all reinventing the wheel," says attorney Margaret Love, executive director of the Collateral Consequences Resource Center and an expert on clemency and restoration of rights.

She and others are calling on the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Center for State Courts and the American Bar Association to study and share what reforms are showing the most promising outcomes.

"Right now it's getting harder for state legislatures to pick out a single approach," Love says. "We have to start looking at this in a more systematic way and look at what works best."

For example, there's a growing body of evidence that it undermines public safety if you don't help people move beyond their criminal records and participate in the workforce. Without that help, the chance of people returning to the criminal justice system increases.

One study estimates that the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is more than 27 percent — far higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression. The rate is even higher for African-Americans who've had run-ins with the law.

With the national jobless rate at historical lows, many companies are looking at new ways to hire additional workers. A recent survey showed that more than 80 percent of managers — and two-thirds of human resource professionals — "feel that the value workers with criminal records bring to the organization is as high as or higher than that of workers without records."

Indiana's example

As in many other states, the work of sealing and expungement in Indiana mostly falls to nonprofit legal groups and private attorneys. But in Marion County, the prosecutor's office has hired a full-time paralegal to process all requests. The county has had more than 11,500 people come through since legislators implemented the law.

While the mood nationally surrounding expungement has dramatically improved, some prosecutors and judges remain skeptical or outright opposed to records clearing. Philosophically they don't think those who've broken the law should get a clean slate.

So it helps a lot that in Marion County, which encompasses Indianapolis, Prosecutor Terry Curry fully supports the effort. He advocated for the law because he thinks people who've stayed out of trouble shouldn't carry the legal stain forever.

"If our goal is to have individuals not reoffend, then in our mind it's appropriate to remove obstacles that are going to inhibit their ability to become productive members of our community," Curry says.

While most cases in Indiana involve misdemeanors, judges have discretion with violent-felony petitions. Victims of those crimes also can give testimony. More serious felonies can be expunged eight or 10 years after the completion of the sentence.

Some crimes must have the prosecutor's written consent for expungement. Homicides and some sexual offenses are not eligible for expungement in Indiana and in most other states.

You can petition to have records for convictions expunged only once in your lifetime. If you are convicted of other charges later on, there's no chance of having them sealed.

While the process in Indiana and in other states seems simple, serious hurdles remain. Expungement can be time consuming and costly. There are filing fees for every petition — fees not everyone can afford.

In addition, the process can vary from county to county depending on cooperation from local prosecutors. Advocates in Indiana want lawmakers to make it easier for people to expunge their records — regardless of where they are in the state.

Getting the word out

Even more vexing — in Indiana and throughout the country — is the general ignorance about existing expungement laws. People just don't know they exist or how they work.

Public defenders from New York to Los Angeles say they have to do a better job of both getting the word out and pushing states to better fund these efforts.

At a recent LA-area expungement clinic, a man showed up who'd done significant prison time for a nonviolent felony. And he'd been off probation for more than five years. He still couldn't get a job. The man, who didn't want his name used, thought at first the expungement clinic was some kind of scam.

"He had no idea he could not only get it [the felony] expunged but reduced to a misdemeanor," says Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Lara Kislinger, who was helping him with the paperwork. "He just had no idea. And he was so grateful. And he's been having so much trouble finding a job. And we want people to be able to re-enter society and be productive members of society. And this was a case where it was so obvious it was holding up jobs — and life. And it's tragic."

Expanding public knowledge of sealing and expungement laws takes money and effort. Many public defender offices already are overwhelmed, understaffed and underresourced.

How long should a record last?

Across the nation, felonies are harder to expunge and involve longer waiting periods, and in many states, homicides and certain sexual offenses are almost impossible to expunge.
Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance
Jay Jordan, 33, is the director of the #TimeDone/Second Chances project for the nonprofit Californians for Safety and Justice. The clinic involves public defenders who volunteer to help people get their criminal charges or records reduced or expunged.
Philip Cheung for NPR
There's a new push in some states to clear some felony convictions, especially nonviolent ones.

California has taken the lead in reducing incarceration and prosecution of certain low-level drug crimes and nonviolent felonies following the passage of Proposition 47 and other measures. Past offenders can petition a court to reduce their crimes to misdemeanors.

Supporters say it has helped reduce the prison population and racial disparities in the justice system while saving taxpayers money. Funds are redirected, for example, into support services such as drug treatment and counseling.

Others say Proposition 47, while a good start, is inadequate. Jay Jordan of Los Angeles served seven years in prison for robbery. He has been out now for nearly eight years and says he still faces daunting obstacles to full re-entry into society.

"You know, I tried to adopt and was turned down. Tried to volunteer at school and was turned down. Tried [to] sell insurance, was turned down. Tried to sell used cars, was turned down. So, you know, every single step of the way when I try to better myself and, you know, be able to take care of myself for my family, there are these massive barriers," Jordan says. "And I'm not alone."

Indeed, there are some 8 million formerly incarcerated people in California. In the U.S., it's estimated that there are some 60 million people with a criminal record, according to federal statistics. The majority are misdemeanors. One report estimates as many people have criminal records as college diplomas.

Jordan now works for a nonprofit that advocates for rights of the formally incarcerated. In their work, Jordan and others are asking the basic question — how long should these convictions be on people's records if they've done their time and are working to become good citizens?

Not everyone wants these reforms. In California, some want to roll back parts of the state's criminal justice reforms through a proposed 2020 ballot initiative that would, among other things, reduce the number of inmates who can seek earlier parole and reclassify some theft crimes from misdemeanors to felonies.

"Proposition 47 was approved overwhelmingly by California voters who understood that permanently punishing people for a past mistake is not reflective of our shared American values nor is it an effective safety strategy," says Jordan, who directs Californians for Safety and Justice's #TimeDone/Second Chances campaign.

"Everyone who has an old, low-level, nonviolent felony on their record that is eligible for reduction to a misdemeanor under Prop. 47 should be able to get relief, and we want to make that as easy as we possibly can for folks," he says. "People deserve the chance to overcome the mistakes of their past, and that road to redemption should be as smooth as possible."

Some Democratic lawmakers in California are pushing back with proposed legislation that would automate the expungement process for all felonies that are eligible for reduction under the law.

Legal experts like Roberts, the American University law professor, caution that the best solution might be for prosecutors to simply take fewer minor cases to court in the first place.

"I don't think you can have an actual conversation about sealing and expungement and decriminalization until you talk about less prosecution and less funneling of low-level misdemeanors into the criminal justice system," Roberts says.

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Explained: Misdemeanors, Felonies, Pardons, and Expungements

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Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance

Eric Mayo

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