San Diego

South Bay Activist Granted Christmas Eve Pardon by Governor

Governor says Rachel Ortiz has 'lived an honest and upright life' since her drug conviction more than 50 years ago.

Rachel Ortiz spent a year in state prison and four years on parole for a felony drug conviction.

That was 40 years ago.

After completing her sentence, the San Diego native turned her life around.

Ortiz helped organize farm workers in North California and the Central Valley, lobbied for land-use improvements and the removal of junkyards from San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood, and, most importantly, she says, founded the Barrio Station youth program.

"It's a highly respected organization," Ortiz told NBC 7. "We have quality services for the kids, and the impact we have had on empowering communities is super, super important.

Ortiz is one of 143 Californians pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown on Christmas Eve. In one of his last acts as Governor, Brown also commuted the prison sentences of 131 inmates.

A pardon can restore many of the privileges a person loses when convicted of a felony.

In his pardon message for Ortiz, the governor complimented the Chula Vista resident for her "exemplary behavior" and her "productive and law-abiding life" since her release from prison in 1966. Ortiz had been convicted of possession of a controlled substance.

For Ortiz, the significance of the governor's pardon is recognition for how she turned her life around.

"It means that I've done well with my life and I'm being recognized for it," she said. "I don't care about the notoriety that it gets me in the community. What it means to me is that I've been forgiven."

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