Legal Aid Providers Work to Create Community of Practice Around Record Clearance

March 28, 2017

In a first step toward creating a national community of practice through the Clean Slate Clearinghouse, Sharon Dietrich (left) of Community Legal Services recently reached out to public defenders and legal aid providers to find out what resources and information on record clearance would be helpful to the field.

Some providers sought advice on how to structure criminal record clinics to ensure the broadest reach, including information on funding opportunities, building community partnerships, and conducting outreach to people in rural areas who might be eligible for record clearance. Other providers requested tips on engaging policymakers to expand criminal record clearance laws, as well as factsheets or other research to support legislative efforts. Additionally, in order to ensure clients receive the full benefit of having their criminal records cleared, providers sought information on expanding “clearance aftercare” and making sure that cleared records are removed from public databases, including commercially prepared background reports.

Legal aid providers also provided examples of the record clearance work underway in their states and jurisdictions. Among other efforts,

  • Legal Aid of Nebraska recently started a statewide project to seal criminal records;
  • Legal Aid of Iowa, a statewide program, recently has ventured into record clearance, building on its existing court debt practice.
  • California Rural Legal Assistance’s Marysville office is performing expungement work, creating a model that it hopes toexpand to to all 18 offices in the state;
  • A statewide expungement working group in Maryland is meeting quarterly to discuss trends; and
  • Memphis, Tennessee’s, Just City program is providing record clearance services and established a fund to help cover the cost of their clients’ record clearance fees, which are the second-highest in the nation.

If you currently provide criminal record clearance assistance or are working to start a program, please email [email protected] to join the Criminal Record Clearance listserve.

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