New service helping to remove many non-violent, low-level offenses from public view
Clean Slate Clackamas, a free service offering “expungement” or removal of non-violent offenses and low-level felony charges from legal records, is scheduled to open its first clinic this month in Oregon City.
Launched by Clackamas Workforce Partnership, a nonprofit workforce development council for the county, the suppression program will hold free clinics every second Monday starting April 11 at Children, Family & Community Connections, 112 11th St.
“Clean Slate Clackamas aims to increase access to justice, education and skills training by helping to eliminate the lasting impacts of incarceration and experiences with the justice system throughout Clackamas County,” said said Amanda Wall, community relations manager for the nonprofit and delisting officer. program.
Clean Slate Clackamas officials say a wide range of social and professional barriers are faced by those with records containing prior lower level offenses as well as criminal charges for which they have never been convicted, as Crime records are also created for many people charged or arrested, but never ultimately convicted of a crime.
“You have a criminal record even if your cases are dismissed or you are cleared,” Wall said.
These dismissed felony charges are only removed from public records when someone goes through formal expungement procedures.
“So it’s not just convictions that follow you, and a lot of background checks don’t take the time to look and see,” Wall added.
Clackamas Workforce Partnership, which oversees federal funding for workforce development services and advocates for policy changes to reduce barriers to employment, is launching the program to help address the unique challenges faced by people with criminal records seeking employment and other resources, including housing and education.
Brent Balog, program manager for the non-profit organization, said that once an individual has served their sentence, “the social stigma and long-running legal record is just a continuation of that punishment and of this ostracization”.
“This is an opportunity to move beyond past mistakes and contribute to the well-being of their community and workforce,” he said, adding that the enduring challenges of criminal records have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, low-income workers, LGBTQ+ communities, and those with mental and behavioral health issues.
“Many of these people already face economic instability due to historical oppression and inequitable social policies, which is further exacerbated by the addition of criminal records,” program officials said in a statement. hurry.
Balog said the service is also intended to help address a labor shortage reported by Oregon employers as large populations of potential employees are unable to access employment or to take steps to gain access because of their record.
State eliminates fees
On January 1, Oregon updated its statutory expungement laws to eliminate fees and other procedural steps involved in filing a motion to have criminal convictions expunged from an individual’s criminal record.
With Oregon Senate Bill 397 Recently taking effect, anyone convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor, Class B or C felony who has served their court-ordered sentence is permitted to seek expungement after a designated interval without further conviction.
Eligibility for suppression of a Class B nonviolent felony begins after seven years without further conviction, shortened to five years after a Class C nonviolent felony conviction, three years after a Class A misdemeanor conviction and one year after a Class B or C misdemeanor conviction.
Through a program called RecordSpongeClean Slate Clackamas helps complete application paperwork for those seeking expungement of criminal records, after which Wall said “all the entrant has to do is sign it and submit it to the court.”
“We’re just helping to provide a service to get the documents, which can be a little difficult for a lot of people, to fill out, sign and submit,” Wall said, adding that they’re partnering with attorney Michael Zhang of Qiu-Qiu Law and others. who volunteer to answer participants’ questions along the way.
Once the paperwork is completed and sent, Wall said approved convictions are typically overturned within four to five months and the plaintiff is notified by mail.
The Clackamas County District Attorney may object to a request, Wall added, in which case the requester will generally be summoned to court for further review and deliberation.
“We open the door to these people; we are not trial and jury,” Wall said, pointing out that Class A felonies are never eligible for expungement and lower level offenses are only expunged if they did not involve a threat of danger. for another person.
“You can never erase sexual offences, child and elder abuse, things like that. There are safes for naysayers who fear that by erasing this from someone’s record can hurt people,” Wall said, adding that while state laws still classify some domestic violence cases into eligible disbarment categories, district attorneys are likely to oppose such requests.
She said once legal records are deleted, they can no longer be seen by employment, housing and credit background checks. They can only be unsealed in a custody battle or other limited exceptions.
Clean Slate Clackamas officials say the pilot program will hold four-hour clinics at Children, Family & Community Connections from 1 to 5 p.m. on April 11, resuming two weeks later from 3 to 7 p.m. on April 25, returning every other Monday through the end of June.
County partners in the effort
“Clackamas County is proud to be part of programs like this that help residents remove barriers to employment and prepare them for gainful employment. Expanding the talent pools of our companies and the wages of our workers is an important part of growing a vibrant county economy. “Adam Freer, director of Children, Family & Community Connections.
The program is currently funded by a grant from the Bob Barker Foundation, and program officials say the nonprofit hopes to have secured funding by the end of June to maintain the service as a permanent fixture in the count.
“By setting up a permanent fixture in Clackamas County, we can then continue to be mobile and have job fairs or other resource fairs, libraries, we partner with county corrections, things like this,” Wall said. “It’s about taking advantage of places where people need it most and removing as many barriers as possible.”
Balog said the program is also seeking funding to expand services to rural areas of the county such as Canby, Molalla, Estacada, Sandy, Gladstone and other areas with fewer transit options, which, often deters rural residents from accessing these and other resources. largely concentrated in urban areas.
“Depending on the type of funding we get and the appetite for it across the county, we would like to try to do at least two erasure clinics per community,” Balog said, adding that they plan to offer services during hours suitable for a range of schedules.
“These have to be performed in person; their signature is required, we have to do fingerprints; so by expanding into rural communities, we’re removing that geographic barrier and doing them on a mobile basis,” Wall added.
Walk-ins are accepted at clinics, Wall said, but she recommends interested participants first complete the program’s online pre-eligibility survey, which she says will typically receive a response within two weeks. at three days.
She added that each clinic’s capacity through June will likely be around 30 a day, but they will try to accommodate as many participants as possible and push them to a next clinic if they cannot serve them immediately.
“We’re really excited about this, it’s something Clackamas County has needed for a long time,” Wall said, adding that they’re modeling the clinic based on existing legal expungement clinics run in Multnomah County and other parts of the state. .
“The more people know about it, the better,” she said, adding that the response to trial clinics the group recently held has been “humiliating,” with many attendees calling in to say that their life had changed. “That’s the true meaning of a second chance.”
To learn more about Clackamas Workforce Partnership, including its past efforts regarding “second chance” employment for people facing barriers related to the legal case, click here.
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