Before Melonie Powell began her talk to the crowd in a Multnomah County courtroom, she had a caveat: My story is not pretty.
The crowd leaned closer at that. Most of the two dozen people in the audience had their own ugly tales, of lives derailed by gambling, alcohol or violence.
They were at the courthouse seeking redemption with Project Clean Slate, a program that helps people expunge criminal records and find jobs and housing.
Powell, a 41-year-old nurse at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, looked like someone whose happy ending was never in doubt. Her pink blouse, earrings and toenail polish all matched. She prowled the front of the room like a preacher. Her face showed no signs of the decades she struggled with crack addiction... MORE