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San Jose State Program Helps Ex-Offenders Expunge Criminal Records

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(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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SAN JOSE (KCBS) – Because of a criminal record that included welfare fraud and felony assault charges, San Jose resident Norma Burns found it almost impossible to get a good job.

“I found out that I could not be a medical assistant with a criminal record because I had assault charges,” Burns said, adding that the cost of expunging her criminal record was prohibitive.

After years of trying, she was finally able to have those charges removed with help from the San Jose State Record Clearance Project.

“I didn’t realize how many doors were going to start opening for me. I started a business,” Burns said.

Burns is not alone.

A new study out of Stanford University finds that the benefits of wiping away a criminal record far outweigh the costs.

“It’s almost $7,000 in the first year,” said Mary Sprague, a senior lecturer at Stanford.

The benefits include increased income for the ex-offender, meaning they are less likely to resort to public assistance, plus increased tax revenue for the state.

The report recommends California do more to promote awareness among ex-cons that expungement is an option for anyone who has not served prison time.

Peggy Stevenson, director of the Clearance Project, said many people eligible to have their records cleared, even if they realized the option exists, cannot take advantage of it.

“The law allows this. People are eligible, but people don’t know about this remedy. And they don’t have the assistance available to help them through the process,” Stevenson said.

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