S.F.’s PD Lauded for Stain-Remover Program

A San Francisco program that helps some people erase blemishes like past arrests or convictions from their records was recognized as a standout last week in Palm Springs, where the California Public Defenders Association held its annual convention.

Public defenders around the state offer similar services, meant to make it easier for a person to overcome his past and find a job or a place to live. But no county is as proactive as San Francisco, where the public defender’s Clean Slate program dedicates staff as well as some satellite neighborhood offices to the effort, noted James McWilliams, a member of the CPDA awards committee for this year’s convention.

According to the S.F. public defender’s most recent annual report, its program began in 1998, and has more than doubled its clientele since 2004, from about 1,100 to about 3,000 people.

By contrast, McWilliams noted that in Alameda County, where he worked for the public defender for 36 years, “we don’t have nearly that many.”

Indeed, he doesn’t mind saying, part of the CPDA’s motivation in giving out awards like the Program of the Year is to nudge other counties around the state into following suit.

Pam Smith

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