September Newsletter 2022 Updates

MailChimp I Sept 20th, 2022 I By Root & Rebound

Dear Community,

This September, through the collective love and guidance I’ve received from you all, I am honored to celebrate and reflect on my first year as Root & Rebound’s Executive Director. I am extremely grateful to the entire team, including colleagues, clients, donors, and institutional partners for your unwavering support. Through your belief and generosity, we can continue to provide reentry services to those most harmed by mass incarceration. 

This past year, I was honored  to share my story as a systems-impacted woman of color and the work of Root & Rebound with Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family PhilanthropiesArnold VenturesAngela Reddock-Wright with Legal Lens and at our May 4th Event – “Unbought, Unbossed, Undeterred” – Building Bridges from the Margins: Meet the Leader Transforming Our New Chapter, where I was officially introduced as the new Executive Director of Root & Rebound. I hope that through sharing my own reentry journey I can lead by example and demonstrate that Root & Rebound aims to not just support our community but empower them to advocate for themselves and help change the narrative surrounding incarceration. This vision is captured by my favorite quote, which is from an African-American proverb, “Each one, teach one.” 

Additional highlights include:

  • Serving more than 2,000 people with direct legal services;
  • Hosting our second annual Formerly Incarcerated Women’s Week where we highlighted the voices of systems-impacted women in the Central Valley;
  • Organizing the first state-wide symposium on criminal system reform in South Carolina; and,
  • Co-sponsoring five bills in California on issues ranging from compassionate release to improved parole transfer practices and decreasing barriers to employment – all of which are now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.

I will continue to strive to open up opportunities for systems-impacted people through legal services, education, policy work and narrative change. I will also prioritize systems-impacted people at different levels of our organization. 

Thank you again for your continuous support of Root & Rebound. I am excited to share with you My Story, a video directed by Chelsi and Gabriel de Cuba that highlights what guides and motivates me as Executive Director, my journey as a systems-impacted mother, and my hopes for the future of Root & Rebound and reentry work. 

With Love & Gratitude,

Carmen Garcia, Executive Director

California’s Best Practices: Pathways From Prison to College

Root & Rebound is proud to share California’s Best Practices: Pathways From Prison to College, which are directly informed by the lived experiences of justice-impacted scholars and their academic advisors/mentees and authored by the Smart Justice Think Tank (SJTT). Guided by the belief that higher education can lead to a better quality of life for currently and formerly incarcerated students, their families, and entire communities, Root & Rebound in partnership with the Michelson 20MM Foundation formed the SJTT with the goal of mapping out best practices for supporting currently and formerly incarcerated students in their educational journey. This resource lays out detailed strategies to support students across three key phases: students currently incarcerated, students transitioning from prison to campus, and students enrolled on campus who were previously incarcerated.On Wednesday, September 14th, members of the Smart Justice Think Tank and authors of the Best Practices, including Root & Rebound’s own California Policy Director, Gail Yen, provided an overview of the recommendations and shared insights on the positive impacts of investing in post-secondary education in prison, on-campus support programs for formerly incarcerated students, and pathways to economic success. Watch the webinar here!

United Justice Coalition (UJC) Summit

On Saturday, July 23rd, the UJC hosted their inaugural social justice convention, the UJC Summit. The UJC Summit welcomed over 900 attendees to engage in a series of conversations and experiences focused on advancing reforms in our criminal justice system. Root & Rebound was one of 41 participating social justice organizations from across the nation.

From left to right: Sandra Johnson (Fair Chance Organizer for Legal Aid at Work), Eliana Green (Director of Community Engagement at The Hood Incubator), Laurie Parise (Independent Consultant), Carmen Garcia (Executive Director at Root & Rebound), Lupita Garcia (Manager, Operations & Executive Affairs at Root & Rebound)

Root & Rebound Tabled at Time Done Day!

On August 10th, 2022 TimeDone and Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ),  hosted their annual TimeDone Day for TimeDone Members at the State Capitol in Sacramento. TimeDone Day is an event that sheds light on the reentry barriers that systems-impacted people face in CA and the pressing need for reform and economic mobility. Root & Rebound and many other local and national partners tabled at TimeDone Day and shared economic empowerment resources with individuals living with old convictions.

From left to right: Zachary Gautier-Klos (Staff Attorney), Ashleigh Dennis (Litigation Staff Attorney), Gail Yen (California Policy Director), Joshua Kim (National Director of Litigation for Economic Opportunity), and DeJone Watts (Women’s Support and Social Services Manager)

Second Annual South Carolina Reentry Symposium

Root & Rebound is hosting its annual South Carolina Reentry Symposium on September 21st, 2022. Root & Rebound will be inviting criminal justice advocates from across the state to join and learn more about current issues in the criminal justice system. We will discuss parole, reentry issues, pretrial issues, juvenile justice, criminal records and right to privacy issues, right-to-counsel for eviction and housing issues, fines and fees, death penalty, and bail reform. Root & Rebound’s National Director of Litigation for Economic Opportunity, Joshua Kim, and Staff Attorney, Allison Elder will be speaking at the event.

Volunteers Needed

We are looking for volunteers to help us conduct our biannual Deep Direct Services (DDS) Survey! The DDS Survey is a collaborative effort within our organization to collect feedback from our clients as well as discuss their experiences in receiving support in services provided to navigate re-entry. 

This effort takes place over 2 months, and we need community support to help us collect responses from our clients. This is a fully remote opportunity, and all volunteers will receive a $20 gift card as a thank you for their efforts.  To apply, please fill out our survey at Applications are due 11:59 pm PT on September 26th and we will be accepting positions on a rolling basis, so please fill out the form ASAP. For questions, please contact Kiran Rao at [email protected]

Expungement Week: September 18th – September 25th

What is expungement? Expungement is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is concealed, hidden, destroyed, or sealed from most parties. This process is critical to many incarcerated people hoping to reenter society since the systems-impacted community experiences over 48,000 collateral consequences upon re-entry. In 2018, National Expungement Works (N.E.W) started an awareness campaign to provide expungement relief and wraparound services to communities affected by the War on Drugs.

At Root & Rebound we provide our clients with expungement services all year long. Our attorneys help our clients navigate reentry barriers by providing them with legal aid services. Our policy team works to reduce the number of barriers our clients face once released from prison. Additionally, Root & Rebound continuously creates toolkits and guides that provide clients with the necessary resources to get their records expunged. We thank you for your continued support as we work to help our clients get their records expunged and overcome reentry barriers.

R&R’s co-sponsored bills are on the Governor’s Desk awaiting his signature!

  • AB 960 – Authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting would widen the criteria for the Compassionate Release Program and allow the state to safely release medically vulnerable incarcerated Californians. Elderly and sick people are the most expensive to incarcerate, and the least likely to reoffend if released. But instead of being released to their families and communities, many die in prison before their compassionate release request is approved. Under California’s current compassionate release system, 1 in 3 eligible applicants die in prison before a court can approve their requests for release. 
  • AB 1720 – Authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden would reduce application barriers for people with a conviction history seeking community care licensure from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). Currently, CDSS can and does deny exemptions based on convictions, even if the conviction is very old or unrelated to caregivers’ work. AB 1720 removes a duplicative process by prohibiting CDSS from requiring applicants to disclose any information regarding their criminal history as a condition of employment. 
  • AB 1924 – Authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson would reduce barriers to employment for those sentenced to probation by streamlining the process to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation. Currently, the process for petitioning for a certificate of rehabilitation is more burdensome for people convicted of less serious offenses (those resulting in sentences of probation) than those for which a conviction resulted in prison sentences. AB 1924 allows people on probation to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation without the requirement of expungement relief and the potential for a lifetime foreclosure of the certificate of rehabilitation remedy. 
  • SB 990 –  Authored by Senator Ben Hueso would amend the parole transfer practices for people with verified admission to postsecondary institutions, job offer, housing, and family. Currently, a person on parole is usually restricted to the county of their last legal residence, with very few options for relocation. SB 990 would expand those relocation options by allowing them to transfer their parole to the county that corresponds with their educational or employment opportunity, which would ensure that we continue to support successful transitions for formerly incarcerated people.
  • SB 1106 – Authored by Senator Scott Wiener would ensure that outstanding restitution does not prevent a person from earning the opportunity for criminal relief. Inability to pay restitution and restitution fines should not impede a person’s ability to clear their records and secure employment, housing, and long-term stability upon reentry. SB 1106 removes restitution as a barrier to record relief. 

Unfortunately, the following bill that we OPPOSE is also on the Governor’s Desk:

  • SB 1262 – Authored by Senator Steven Bradford would allow the public and online availability of all criminal history information, ignoring the violation of the constitutional right to privacy. Though supporters of the bill (like background check companies) argue that one’s criminal history information is always relevant, we believe we should not keep punishing people for something that they did 30 years ago. There should be privacy safeguards, but SB 1262 has none. Voice your opposition to SB 1262 and ask Governor Newsom to veto this harmful bill. Contact the Governor here! 

Reach out to our California Policy Director, Gail Yen ([email protected]) for ways to be a part of our legislative policy work.

News & Happenings

  • On August 25th, Root & Rebound partnered with the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office, Law Students for Community Advancement at San Joaquin College of Law, and Central California Legal Services, Inc. to host a free legal clinic to qualifying low-income litigants who have a criminal record eligible for expungement. The next Central Valley Free Virtual Criminal Record Expungement Clinic will be held on September 29th from 3 – 5 pm PST. RSVP here if you would like to attend. 
  • Root & Rebound’s Litigation Staff Attorney, Ashleigh Dennis, was interviewed for an article by AP News, “Western fires outpace California effort to fill inmate crews.” The article shares how many previously incarcerated firefighters have trouble getting hired professionally because of their criminal records even though they have been trained to fight fires. Ashleigh helps previously incarcerated firefighters file expungement petitions and has filed 23 requests but only 14 have been granted. *This article uses language that Root & Rebound does not recommend using. Instead of using “former inmates,” Root & Rebound recommends using “formerly incarcerated people.” Read the article here!
  • Our Executive Director, Carmen Garcia was interviewed for an article by Arnold Ventures, “The Child is Doing Prison Time with the Parent.” Carmen shares her past experience of being an incarcerated mother with a teenage daughter and provides insight into the anxiety, guilt, and stress that both child and parent face. “While Garcia served her sentence, her daughter had to adjust to a new living space and found a job so that her mom could afford to make phone calls.” The 40% of children that are exposed to the criminal justice system through a caregiver face multiple adverse child development outcomes. Read the article here! 
  • Root & Rebound’s Central Valley Policy Associate, Claudia Gonzalez, speaks on the cycle of homelessness and incarceration in Fresno County. Claudia emphasizes how stable housing and ample resources are essential to reentry for formerly incarcerated people. Claudia shares that her “clients have reported discrepancies in what resources are made available by probation officers contributing to why many formerly incarcerated people are unaware of resources available in their communities.” Read the article here! 
  • Root & Rebound’s Litigation Staff Attorney, Ashleigh Dennis, spoke to KQED Reporter/Producer Daphne Young on the barriers that formerly incarcerated firefighters face in job security at a time when they are needed most.


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