Expungement clinic aims to restore hope in the community

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For the past couple of years, volunteers have spent their Saturday helping people clear their criminal records while also helping them with their job search.

Hundreds of people showed up Saturday at the The Healing Center Full Gospel Baptist Church looking to clean up their criminal record.

A non-conviction expungement clinic was held in partnership with the church, Mayor Jim Strickland's office, and local leaders.

In 2017, the Tennessee legislature passed several new expungement laws including reducing the fee from $450 to $180.

Many people with a Tennessee criminal record or convictions can also have multiple misdemeanors erased.

"And they are old, some are very old, and they are still being held against them. We need to find a way to break into that. Another thing is they are not able to vote and people want their voices heard," Pastor Dianne Young said.

The clinic is about restoring hope in the community.

"We deal a lot with suicide and we found out that 90 percent of people who take their lives contact a person of faith before they complete it. That means that we need to be on the front line ready to help people and point them in the right direct and even the things that we don't do, we need to know where those resources are," Young said.

Representatives from Shelby County General Sessions Clerk Ed Stanton Jr.'s  office were on hand to share other second-chance resources.

"When people can get their cases expunged, they can get jobs and pay for drivers assistance programs such as what we have here that are available," Gortria Banks said.

A volunteer at the clinic said the program gives residents another opportunity at life.

"I was here at this very clinic last year. I had a few things expunged as far as my background and my driving and I am a witness to sit here and say today that I work for a Fortune 500 company because of that. So it's very very important, even if you feel like it doesn't apply. It doesn't hurt to try," a volunteer named Jessica said.

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