Justice

Why This Convicted Marijuana Felon Wants His Life Back

Chris Martinez is a 27-year-old father of two rebuilding his life following prison and the aftermath. He keeps applying for gigs that often turn him down. When they ask him if he's ever been convicted of a felony he tells them the truth: he has.

"It’s been hard trying to get jobs because the employers, all they see is a felony," Martinez told ATTN:. "They typically don’t want to know details."

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In 2007, when Martinez was 19, police officers pulled him over in his car after he took a date home. He was arrested and charged with felony marijuana possession. He was in possession of marijuana and was locked up for two months in Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles. Since then, and since he ended his probation at 22, he is working to get his felony expunged from his record and tell people his story.

"It’s been really tough to provide for my family," Martinez explains.

 

 
 

 

Martinez is Black and Mexican. He grew up football-obsessed in Pacoima, California, just north of Los Angeles in the dusty, dry San Fernando Valley. He recently started working as a security guard, as other positions he applies to deny him because of his criminal record.

Martinez's views echo the national movement to "ban the box" from job applications. More than 100 cities are changing how employers examine criminal history for job applications, according to the National Employment Law Project. Ex-convicts and their families started the movement to help remove discrimination from the job application process and help better the chances of people leaving a life of incarceration to rehabilitate and reenter the workforce. In June, the New York City Council passed a measure barring employers from rescinding a job offer based on a criminal conviction before an explanation, and an interactive discussion, the Huffington Post repots. The NYC bill had support from "Orange Is the New Black" author Piper Kerman.

RELATED: Oregon Becomes the Latest State to "Ban the Box"