COMPTON (The Bulletin) – Getting a clean slate can be a challenge for individuals who find themselves behind bars or incarcerated. Once these individuals walk into freedom there is still a likelihood that are not truly out of the criminal justice system.
The legal expungement or erasing of past misdeeds tend to come back and hurt those seeking employment and want to move ahead with their life.
This is where people like Traci Blackburn step in. Blackburn is the head deputy of the Compton public defender’s Office. On Thursday, June 15, Blackburn and the Compton branch of the Los Angeles County’s public defender’s office forged a partnership with Mayor Emma Sharif to hold an expungement event at the Douglas F. Dollarhide Community Center.
The purpose of the event is to help those previously stamped in the criminal justice system with eradicating their misdeeds.
“I worked in Compton with the public defender’s office for about 28 years, about 21 of those is in Compton,” Blackburn said. I’m not from Compton, but I’m from Compton now. And what I’ve been seeing is what we call zip code justice. We see that not only the prosecutions in the way that is over policing of the community, but it has reverberating effects.
“It’s hard for people to get their lives re-started. What our office wants to is make sure we want to be part of any part of the process. We’re going to fight with you, for your case. If you don’t have a case, there are services we can connect you to, and it’s important to make sure this community gets healed and helped.”
The turnout for the event was more than good for Blackburn and the public defender’s office. Coming into the event, Blackburn had a certain goal she wanted to make. Those expectations were met and exceeded by the number of people stopping by to try to get a clean record, she said.
“It’s kind of already met my expectations. I think we’re around thirty [people], If we were to get fifteen more, I would just love it. But this is just the first of many,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn and the public defender’s office use a plethora of tools, including social media, connecting with churches, and other platforms to alert community members about these expungement events. She says that one of the biggest challenges that ex-offenders face is trying to right the wrong they made have made in the past.
“Just back on their feet and not be weighed down by maybe the worst time in their life or a maybe mistake they made,” said Blackburn. “Just being treated like anyone else.”
So, what’s her stake in all of this? It’s about serving others, Blackburn said.
“My whole has been about helping people, helping people that others don’t want to help, that you look away from,” quipped Blackburn. “It’s usually people of color…my gratification is just helping out my people because they’re most Black and brown and doing what I can to try to make their lives better.”
Traci Blackburn is the head deputy of the Compton branch of the Los Angeles County’s public defender’s office. The public defender’s office held an expungement event at the Douglas F. Dollarhide Community Center on June 15, 2023.
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.