On a sunny day just a few months after she was released from federal prison, Barbra Scrivner drove three blocks from her ranch-style home on a quiet street in Fresno, Calif., to the Walgreens on the corner, tottering on her wedge heels as she got out of the car. After sending out her résumé to dozens of nearby businesses, she had finally landed a job interview, to be a sales associate at the store.
Scrivner clutched her résumé, but she also brought what she considered a secret weapon of sorts: a letter sent by President Barack Obama after he set her free last December. The single sheet was hand-signed — Scrivner moved her fingertips over the signature to check that it wasn’t a copy — and was full of encouragement from the president. She planned to show her interviewer at Walgreens the letter, so he would know she wasn’t just like any other ex-felon fresh out of prison.