AURORA, Colo. — Saturday afternoon, dozens of people convicted of crimes got their records sealed. The Second Chance Center in Aurora hoped to offer many a second chance.
"I did like 23 years in prison and it would be nice if I can get my record expunged because it's hard to get jobs," said K-9 handler Dana Brown. "That's why I had to start my own business."
The Second Chance Center partnered with Expunge Colorado, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, and Brain Injury Alliance Colorado. The partners involved believe sealing records will allow those with prior convictions better opportunities for jobs and housing.
"I feel really good and I'm glad a lot of people have come out here 'cause we all need help," Brown said.
Brown says she was forced to start her own business after many doors continued to close. She learned how to handle K-9s while incarcerated, which has now allowed her to create her own business.
Brown hoped to get her record sealed to open new job opportunities and to leave her childhood trauma behind.
"I ended up hurting the boyfriend I had at the time. He passed away. And I ended up going to prison when I was 25 years old," Brown said.
In 1995, Brown was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree assault. Twenty-six years later, she hoped today would mark a new beginning but was turned away because it was a violent crime.
At that moment, Brown said, "I want to cry."
Brown wasn't the only one turned away. But there were others also present who've experienced that heartbreak before.
"I can empathize -- I've been denied three times prior to this," said Brain Injury Alliance re-entry specialist Jack Storti.
Storti marks this as a new beginning after numerous bills were passed this year, allowing those with non-violent or low-level offenses to get their records sealed.
"I'm really grateful. Stigma with criminal records is huge. I'm a good person who made bad mistakes. I served my time, did what I was supposed to by the community," Storti said. "This could help my future in terms of housing. Getting on a lease is ridiculous for me. I've had to live in secret or find private owners, which is really hard, or not have a place to go because I've got these felonies and misdemeanors on my record that people see that -- not everything else that I've done that's good."
He believes it's about creating a better future for those who may have made small mistakes in the past, especially for those like Dana, who want lawmakers to consider the circumstances in some of these violent offenses.
"If I could go in and explain my story and know it would help, I would do it. But I know it's probably not going to help. I would encourage them to please take people's stories into consideration," Brown said.
But she remains optimistic that her next steps are forward. At the same time, encouraging those who were lucky enough to have moved forward themselves Saturday.
"I encourage them to live their lives and not worry anymore. I hope to get to that point as well," she said.
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