Criminal justice reform efforts stall at Arizona Legislature, including push to ‘Ban the Box’

TUCSON – Nearly 30 years ago, Calistro Manuel Mejias robbed a drug dealer, but something he didn’t expect happened. One of the men with Mejias choked the dealer to death.

The state charged Mejias with first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

He was 15 years old.

Mejias’ sentence was overturned, and he ended up serving 20 years. He said he struggled to find work after leaving prison eight years ago because no one wanted to hire a convicted felon.

“Anytime I would have to check that little box,” he said. “Whether it (was applying) for a job or to apply for housing, as soon as I check that box, I already knew. There’ve been many interviews that I’ve sat in and slid my resume over and admitting that I’ve been imprisoned – showing what accomplishments I had in prison and whatnot – just had the resume slid right back to me.”

Today, Mejias helps disaffected youth in Tucson stay out of prison. When he heard about a move in the Legislature that could help other felons, he spoke in support of the measure in a YouTube video addressed to legislators. FULL ARTICLE