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A lifetime of punishment doesn’t fit the crime

By in Press Enterprise on October 9, 2017

By Terrance Stewart

California’s criminal justice system continues to punish people with criminal records long after they have served their debt to society. Federal, state and local laws on the books create obstacles for people trying to reassemble their lives after experiencing the trauma of incarceration.

Thanks in part to criminal justice policies that locked up thousands of nonviolent offenders, there are thousands of Californians with felony records who still face challenges reintegrating into society – even after their sentence is served. There are nearly 5,000 different restrictions placed on people with felony convictions, creating barriers for families, and making it difficult if not impossible for people to secure jobs, housing, student loans and other keys to achieving economic security and facility stability.

I know because I served my time for a non-violent drug crime back in 1999. But even after being released, I continued to face hurdles that prevented me from getting my life on track, and kept me from helping kids in my own family who were trapped in the same cycle of poverty and incarceration that I came from.

I was the child of a parent with a record, and dealt with instability throughout my life. Eventually, I went down the same path, and wound up with a felony record for drug possession. But after I served my time for my non-violent crime, I found a new series of obstacles in my path.

After some luck, and the help and support from a loving auntie, my family and I got back on track. I went on to UC Riverside and received a masters degree. I found work with Inland Congregations United for Change, to help those who have a past like mine.

Even though I was able to help others like me, I found myself powerless to help those who are closest to me. My […]    

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