By Jan Ransom
Carlos grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in the 1990s, then a rough-and-tumble neighborhood where he struggled to stay out of trouble. He later moved with his wife and two children to the South Bronx, where he made a career as a taxi driver.
But he remained haunted by his past and wondered how different his life could have been if he didn’t have a criminal record.
At 18, Carlos, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his privacy, said he was addicted to drugs and alcohol when he and his friends stole a bicycle from another teenager while hanging out near the Williamsburg Bridge in 1997. He was convicted of third-degree robbery, a class D felony in 1998, and sentenced to 18 months at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill and served over two years probation.
After his release, he said he had trouble finding steady work and many employers fired him after learning of his conviction. He worked odd, usually low-paying jobs as a tow-truck driver, a messenger, a plumber, a mover and as an unlicensed security guard before joining the now-struggling yellow taxi industry.
Now 40, Carlos, with help from the Legal Aid Society’s Conviction Sealing Project, has filed an application in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn to have his conviction sealed under a new state law.
He said he hopes the court will grant him the second chance he has dreamed of: “I want to do better for my children and myself.”