The Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office has won an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties for its Proposition 47 outreach and community reentry services. The award honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.
Passed by voters on Nov. 4, 2014, Prop 47 is a California law allowing people convicted of certain non-serious, nonviolent crimes to have their felony conviction(s) reduced to a misdemeanor.
A felony conviction is a barrier to obtain employment, housing and access to federal healthcare programs, serve in the armed forces, and ultimately become a productive member of society.
After the LA County Public Defender’s Office identified more than 500,000 countywide clients who may be eligible for Prop 47 relief, it launched its Proposition 47 Outreach and Community Reentry Services Plan.
“The LA County Public Defender’s Office goes beyond the courtroom in assisting clients,” LA County Public Defender Ricardo García said. “We strongly believe that post-conviction relief gives our clients opportunities they may not have otherwise. I’m so proud of my team for delivering such high-quality holistic advocacy that uplifts our clients and our community.”
This multifaceted plan has included more than 100 Prop 47 legal clinics, where thousands of clients have received assistance. The plan also has included resource events, a multimedia awareness campaign and connections to holistic services to help individuals move away from the criminal justice system.
The Public Defender’s Proposition 47 plan not only changes lives but broadens the ways in which the department interacts with its clients. Partnering with other County departments and many community agencies, the Public Defender reaches its most vulnerable clients at the legal clinics, where attorneys and other Public Defender employees offer Prop 47 and other post-conviction relief.
With this effort, the Public Defender’s Office dedicates time to document testimonies at outreach events.
“I’m trying to put my life back in order,” said one client, who expected that his record-clearing would help him find work and get off the streets. “Today, I finally got to meet the lawyers who are helping me go in the right direction.”
Another client was a grandmother whose felonies disqualified her from assuming custody of her 1-year old grandson. For this woman, having her felonies reduced to misdemeanors meant that the child would not have to go into foster care. Also, her application for senior housing had been rejected because of her felony record. With the felonies she collected as a youth dismissed, she would be approved for subsidized senior housing and able to provide a stable home for her grandson.
NACo will recognize award winners at its 2019 Annual Conference and Exposition July 12-15 in Clark County, Nevada. Prop 47 legal clinics are overseen by Assistant Public Defender Candis Glover.
Public Information Officer Pamela Johnson organized and staffed the events until February 2019, when Executive Secretaries Edna Hamilton, Nilda Cedeno, Sharon Boysaw and Patricia Smith took over the duties.
The Information Technology team led by Lee Tran plays an integral role in the endeavor. Administrative Analyst Dominique Lawson-Maston was instrumental in initiating the events in 2015.