DOWNEY (CBSLA.com) — California Governor Jerry Brown celebrated Christmas Eve by pardoning over one hundred former convicts, one of them a local man who now works with recovering drug addicts.
Narciso Espinoza, who says he was already locked into a gang-banging lifestyle by the age of 13, is one of 105 former convicts to receive the official pardon from Governor Brown.
“I started getting involved in the neighborhood, and then the gangs started, and I got involved in gangs for quite some years,” Espinoza recalled. “And what came with it was drugs and alcohol.”
In 1996, Espinoza was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon when he stabbed his brother in the arm with a knife. The conviction resulted in 11 months of service behind bars, plus another three years of parole.
At the age of 40, Espinoza says he grew tired of the gang life, as well as heroin use, and through the help of a close friend and former gang member, he made the decision to change his life.
“I could not care for myself or love myself because of the things I’d done, and the people I hurt, and the shame, the guilt, it took a toll,” Espinoza said. “All the year, as a kid growing up, I’ve always wanted to just have a peace of mind, be (joyful) and be happy. And that’s what I found.”
Staying true to that goal, Espinoza’s story became one of redemption. For the past 16 years, he has worked for a non-profit substance abuse rehabilitation center in Lincoln Heights, called Cri Help Socorro.
Through his work at the non-profit, Espinoza has advanced in life both personally and professionally, becoming the intake and admissions supervisor, helping others who are on the wrong path, or who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, as he once was.
He now aims to put addicts on the same path he found.
Former convicts may be granted pardons if they demonstrate exemplary behavior and live productive and law-abiding lives following their conviction, according to a statement by Governor Brown.
For the Espinoza family, the pardon was the greatest Christmas gift they could have hoped for.