By Christin Ayers

RICHMOND (KPIX) – Men and women who may have committed minor criminal offenses packed a clinic in Richmond Saturday, to try and get a shot at a second chance.

Jose Ponce was among them. His past haunts him.

Ponce worries about a conviction for a minor drug offense when he was 22-years-old.

“I heard about the event through my sister,” said Ponce.

He came to Richmond Memorial Auditorium Saturday hoping for a chance to clear his name.

“There’s always a second chance for everyone,” said Ponce. “Mistakes in the past are mistakes in the past. So here I am trying to see what I can do for myself.”

It’s called Clean Slate Day. It is a clinic for people who want to find out what’s on their rap sheets, get legal advice, register to vote and ultimately clear their names.

Ponce was one of many people who walked in, but hundreds of other people pre-registered online. Organizers say that shows just how strong demand is for these services.

“The need is great — the need is massive,” says Richmond City Council candidate Dave Schoenthal, who helped put the event on.

Schoenthal says the numbers show roughly 3 million Californians have criminal records and many have no idea how to clean up their records.

“It’s a myriad of things they have to go through in order to get an expungement done and it’s very legal and it’s very technical and it’s one of the barriers to multiple things,” said Schoenthal.

The Public Defender’s office says the help doesn’t stop when clean slate day is over.
“We’ll be following up with some of them for up to a year to see this process through,” said Assistant Public Defender Ellen McDonnell.

Ponce hopes this means his past will no longer be holding him back.

“Having the help feels awesome,” he said, “It put me in tears.”

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