(Photo by Flickr user gosheshe, used under a Creative Commons license)
If the criminal justice system is supposed to rehabilitate people with criminal convictions, why do their criminal records stick around, preventing them from finding gainful employment after they’ve served their time?
It’s an issue both the city and state have been slowly working on. Recent successes include amendments to the city’s fair hiring law, limiting or preventing employers from considering criminal convictions that are over seven years old.
But first, those records need to be expunged, allowing formerly convicted persons the ability to land a job, pursue and education or even find housing.
Now, a team of Philadelphia organizations and city agencies including the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, the Mayor’s Office, the Office of the District Attorney and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS) are hosting free expungement clinics across the city to help formerly convicted individuals seal their records.
“This is our most important initiative of the year,” said Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Gaetan J. Alfano in a statement. “The expungement of criminal records is significant work, as we need to restore compassion and commonsense into how we, as a society, treat minor offenses.”
The clinics will be held in six locations across the city on Nov. 12 and be overseen by volunteer attorneys.
Those attorneys will be trained by CLS to use a tool called the Expungement Generator, built by CLS attorney Mike Hollander in 2011. The Expungement Generator is a web app that more or less automates the otherwise lengthy process of expunging a record. At the beginning of the year, Hollander told Generocity the Expungement Generator had been used to help roughly 2,000 people clear their records.
According to CLS, the generator will be used at every clinic, allowing volunteers to serve more people faster.
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