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Expungement Clinics Give Community Members a Fresh Start

Our underlying mission at LAFLA is to improve the lives of low-income people through equal access to justice. One way we achieve that is by helping clients remove barriers that prevent them from housing and gainful employment, including their criminal record. Our expungement clinics around Los Angeles County allow us to work closely with clients in clearing their records, often working with local organizations to facilitate and staff these events.

An expungement can greatly increase a client’s chances of securing employment, as private employers can no longer see or ask about expunged convictions; state licensing agencies are also more likely to grant licenses to individuals who have had their records expunged. The added stability that comes from obtaining employment can go a long way to reducing rates of recidivism, as well as improving the quality of the client’s life overall.

LAFLA partners with the LA Law Library to hold a monthly expungement clinic, as well as other events serving the public: Our staff and volunteer attorneys meet with clients, while the library provides the physical space and technology. It is an alliance that fulfills both organizations’ goals: “We share the same mission in terms of serving underserved communities and closing the justice gap,” said Janine Liebert, Managing Librarian, Public Interest Programs at the LA Law Library. “LAFLA has been a pilot partner through many public interest projects at the library.”

Another successful partnership has been with Crossroads United Methodist Church in Compton, led by Rev. Adrienne Zackery. LAFLA began working with Crossroads in 2015 at the invitation of Rev. Zackery, who sought to remove barriers for community members who had been incarcerated. “You can get an expungement by going to court, but what makes this different is that it’s at the church,” said Rev. Zackery. “I have been told that people feel safe coming to the church. As a congregation, we are partnering with our community to be able to give them an opportunity for a second chance.”

Crossroads hosts semi-annual expungement clinics in conjunction with LAFLA. In turn, Rev. Zackery has shared the expungement clinic model with communities across the United States, including Nashville where she spoke at the 2018 National Prison Summit. Later that year, she also bestowed LAFLA with a certificate of appreciation (see picture to the right).

The effects of some of these clinics are truly life-changing, as Rev. Zackery can testify: “A young lady named Hope shared with us she had some drug convictions from 25 years ago that she never addressed. When she went to apply for a job, they ran a background check and she found out what was on her record.” A LAFLA employee worked with Hope to remove all of her prior convictions: “It was such a wonderful story about how LAFLA was so persistent in being able to clear her background,” according to Rev. Zackery. Hope now works as a project manager, and credits this crucial step for the “change in her life.”

Recent legislation has made it easier for people with convictions to get a chance at another start, including Propositions 47 and 64. These initiatives arose from growing concerns about the negative effects of mass incarceration and the failures of the war on drugs. Both propositions contained retroactive components that allowed individuals who had been previously convicted of certain drug and low-level theft crimes to petition to have their convictions either reduced or dismissed completely.

In addition to LA Law Library and Crossroads, LAFLA co-hosts expungement clinics with the Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership, Drug Policy Alliance, and other organizations.

Want to learn more about clearing your criminal record and/or attending an upcoming expungement clinic? Check our calendar to find one most convenient to you.

Interested in volunteering at our expungement clinics? Browse our calendar for in-person trainings, or you can watch free on-demand trainings via our online Pro Bono Training Institute.