Sandra Johnson, at her office in San Francisco, urges that people not be "held hostage by our mistakes.” Photo by Lee Romney for CALmatters

Many of the 7 million Californians with a prior arrest or conviction can likely relate to Sandra Johnson’s job hunting experience nearly a decade ago. On every employment application, she checked a box that inquired about criminal history.

“It was terribly hard,” the 59-year-old mother and grandmother said of the months she spent seeking work after completing a San Francisco drug treatment program. “I would go and apply and I would never hear back because that box was always there.”

Eventually, Johnson got lucky. The head of an organization that was helping her with computer skills referred her to a paratransit company. She was honest about her past, got the job, and for more than five years drove clients to and from dialysis. She said she came in on days off, if called. She was named employee of the month. She even did a little promotional video for her bosses.

“I was straight and narrow and I just wanted a second chance,” Johnson said. “I was supporting myself and that gave me something to feel good about.”

Then, in 2013, she said, the company changed hands, ran a background check and canned her.

Johnson’s voice still cracks when she recounts her devastation and feelings of …read more

Source:: East Bay – Politics

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