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New California law sealing old arrest and conviction records gives people a second chance

SF community leader: New law sealing old arrests, convictions will give people 2nd chance
SF community leader: New law sealing old arrests, convictions will give people 2nd chance 02:57

SAN FRANCISCO -- California has approved one of the most sweeping criminal justice reform measures in the country, becoming the first state to automatically seal records for people with old arrests and convictions.

Supporters say it could be a game changer for people trying to start a new path.

Damien Posey is known in his San Francisco community as "Uncle Damien." He is the founder of Us for Us Bay Area, a non-profit that mentors kids and offers them a safe place.

SF activist Damien Posey
SF activist Damien Posey CBS

"I am well known for showing love all over this city all over the Bay," said Posey.

This vision of making a difference began while Posey served 10 years in prison.

"It was just in me to make sure no one suffered the pain that I went through as a young person in prison -- and juvenile hall -- to the best of my ability," Posey said.

Despite his impact in the community, his old convictions have made this journey even more challenging. And thanks to a new law that could all change.

SB-731, passed earlier this year, allows Californians with past convictions and arrests to have those records permanently sealed. 

"It's unfortunate that people in power or a place of support will look at my past as opposed to my present and what I am doing now for the 11 years," Posey said. "That's why I am so grateful that times are changing."

It's an effort pushed by Alliance for Safety and Justice that has created programs like Time Done and Californians for Safety and Justice.

One of the people leading this charge is Tinisch Hollins, executive director for Californians for Safety and Justice.

"I think it's important to remember that we are not defined by one experience in our lives," Hollins said. "If people have opportunity to develop themselves and rehabilitate to get new skills to move forward in life, then it makes society safer and better for all of us."

Time Done says 1-in-5 Californians live with a past conviction or record and face 5,000 legal restrictions. The new law opens a window of opportunities for individuals like Posey to have a impact in their spaces.

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