BOSTON – When Fitchburg resident David Gonzalez left the prison system in 2000, he felt fortunate to find a job. He initially worked at a factory, transferring a year later to the Sisters of Mercy Convent. However, after working there for less than a year, the organization conducted a background check and fired him for his criminal record.
“After I left the convent, I relapsed (into drug use),” Gonzalez said. “I was very depressed and attempted suicide many times … I still have depression.”
Gonzalez said he juggled short-term jobs and collected disability for years. He finally found steady employment in 2017, when he was hired by the Latin American Health Alliance as a substance-abuse counselor. His new employer disregarded his criminal record, allowing Gonzalez to start over.
“I think people should be given the opportunity to start (fresh),” Gonzalez said. ”(Open criminal records) keep people in shackles.”
A comprehensive criminal justice reform proposal approved by the Massachusetts Senate would reduce the time frame for sealing these criminal records. Under the bill, felony records could be sealed after seven years instead of 10. Misdemeanors would be closed in three years instead of five.