Alameda County Races the Clock to Help Ex-Cons Benefit From Prop. 47

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

KQED News – By Sara Hossaini

A new state law gives people with certain low-level felonies three years to reduce their convictions to misdemeanors.

More than 3,000 people behind bars were the first to benefit from Proposition 47. Now counties like Alameda are racing the clock to track down ex-offenders, in the hopes of giving them a chance to change their records.

If there’s one person passionate about tracking down eligible felons, it’s Jill Jenkins. She’s working as an intern at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office — something she says she never could have envisioned in her darker, drug-addicted moments.

Back then, she was a newly single young mom, who was hooked on crack.

“I didn’t have any support, no therapist, no friends that I could really talk to to help me go through the fact that I was being abandoned with these children,” says Jenkins. “So I resorted to what was comfortable.”

As Jenkins’ habit grew, so did her criminal record — mostly with petty crimes. Her last offense was stealing a sandwich. With priors, it was considered a felony.

“When I was in my addiction, I thought I was going to die in my addiction,” Jenkins says. “I really didn’t even care if I lived or died.”

Given the choice, she opted for a year of rehabilitation instead of jail time. Finally clean, her minister encouraged her to campaign for Prop. 47. When it passed, she was one of the first people on probation to get her conviction bumped down to a misdemeanor, and then wiped clean.

Jenkins is now a woman on a mission. From her cubicle in a mid-floor high-rise, she gets a call from the father of an ex-felon she’s been trying to reach.

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