‘Start With Step One’: Clean Slate Day Clears Records Again

Two masked people sitting at an outdoor table in front of a laptop

The annual Clean Slate Day helps people get their lives back on track by providing opportunities to get criminal records cleared and other services. (Photo by Jasmine Bañuelos)

By Efrain Valdez

In a joint effort, the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office and the Reentry Success Center expunged the records of 93 people in the latest edition of Clean Slate Day on April 8.

The event, which has become a staple of the Heart of Richmond Park, also provided services like obtaining government identification, drug rehabilitation and getting traffic violations cleared.

For Richmond resident and Reentry Success Center alum LaShele Guyton, coming to Clean Slate Day was an avenue for her to get back on track to reentering the medical field.

“With Clean Slate Day and me trying to get back into the medical field, there are things that are stopping me from doing that,” she said. “So by getting my record expunged, it’s going to alleviate a lot of the pressure I’m facing and helping me get back in the field that I love.”

Guyton said that she also got help with child support services and improving her diet.

“I was able to do some other things that were quite helpful such as receiving child support services and eating healthier,” she said. “They actually gave me a cookbook and want me to be a speaker” for the center in the near future.

For deputy public defender Jermel Thomas, being able to host this event in person helps the Public Defender’s Office and the Reentry Success Center interact with the community and give them proper help and legal advice.

Community members “are able to interface with organizations like the Public Defender’s Office who is able to give them that up-close and personal attorney-to-client advice that is difficult to get through a monitor or a phone call,” she said.

Thomas said that she thinks Contra Costa County is lucky to have a network of community-based organizations that are often in close communication with each other.

“We are all trying to achieve the same goal of serving the residents of Contra Costa County,” she said. “We sent out the email [to the other organizations], and, fortunately, they answered the call just like they have in the past.”

Guyton said people who are skeptical about coming to these type of events and getting help have to put their pride aside because there are people willing to help.

“You have to put your best foot forward because the help won’t come to you, you have to go to it,” she said. “Start with step one of the process, and you’ll be good to go.”

Reentry Success Center Director Pat Mims said the community benefits greatly from this event because individuals can find a diverse set of services in one place.

“What I’m trying to do today is make sure that individuals that are signing up for the record expungement realize that they qualify for basically every service that is out here,” he said. “We have over 10 organizations here that are sharing their services like obtaining an ID, birth certificate and employment documents. We have all of it.”

Thomas said this event has a special meaning to her because she bears witness to the impacts and barriers that people who have criminal convictions face.

“Whether it is housing, whether it be employment opportunities, whether it be getting an identification card, there are so many citizens that need help,” Thomas said. “This is just one way that we can help and if the need is there why not be there to provide it.”

Lead reentry success coach Tiffany Anaya said that the Reentry Success Center and the Public Defender’s Office are working in the hopes of hosting a larger Clean Slate Day event this summer with a possible street closure and a more festive ambiance.

For more information on future events or services, residents can go onto reentrysuccess.org or call the Reentry Success Center at 510-679-2122.

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