The first annual National Expungement Week (N.E.W.), seven days of events across the U.S. from October 20-27, 2018, which offered expungement assistance and other forms of legal relief to those with convictions, is credited with leading 298 people to record clearing and sealing – resulting in a public benefit of over $3 million this first year alone. In many cases, however, event organizers were left to untangle a virtual web of legal restrictions, crystalizing their call for reforms to current expungement and record sealing laws.
“The true lesson of National Expungement Week is that we need to expand eligibility and access to legal relief. Laws must be changed so that people can restore their rights and successfully re-enter their communities more easily,” says Felicia Carbajal of Los Angeles-based Smart Pharm Research Group and one of the lead organizers of the Van Nuys, CA event.
Besides expungement assistance, over 400 people also received related social services at N.E.W. clinics, including access to health and employment services, voter registration, and more. N.E.W. has also introduced a free online expungement toolkit to help demystify the process so communities can host their own record change events in anticipation of N.E.W. 2019.
Organizers of N.E.W. events, including Equity First Alliance, who recently released an open letter calling attention to patterns of inequity and injustice in the cannabis industry, are advocating for laws to be changed so that people can restore their rights more easily. Other participating organizations include Cage-Free Cannabis, Cage-Free Repair, Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, Minorities for Medical Marijuana, California Cannabis Advocates, Tree Femme Collective, We BAKED, The Pot Lab, and Smart Pharm Research Group. As they move towards organizing N.E.W. 2019 sentiment is unanimous that expansion of access to legal relief should be a top priority.
N.E.W. events were held in Athens, GA, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Haven, Philadelphia, Prince George’s County, San Francisco and Washington, DC. During the Boston clinic, Suffolk County District Attorney candidates held an impromptu debate, while the head of Denver’s Marijuana Policy Division attended that city’s event and, at the direction of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, will soon pursue auto-expungement policies. Overall, N.E.W. events have inspired teams of attorneys, organizers, and activists nationwide to continue to increase expungement opportunities where possible.
About National Expungement Week – October 20-27, 2018
National Expungement Week (N.E.W.) is a week of events across the U.S. that offers expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records. These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served. N.E.W. events will offer as many wraparound services as possible to restore people’s rights and lift up communities. For more information, please visit www.offtherecord.us
Source: press release