Monday, November 14, 2011

Loyola's Center for Restorative Justice hosts Expungement Clinic

By Seth Weiner, co-director, Loyola's Center for Restorative Justice

The Loyola Law School Center for Restorative Justice (CRJ) partnered with LAW Project Los Angeles (LPLA) to host an Expungement Clinic on the Loyola Law School Campus on Friday, Nov. 11.

The CRJ is founded on the belief that human harm caused by crime must be healed by a criminal justice system that is more restorative than punitive; that victims and survivors of crime, including offenders who were themselves victimized and others harmed by crime, can never be healed by merely punishing offenders. The CRJ exists to help bring about a shift from a punitive to a restorative paradigm of justice in our society. LPLA conducts outreach, education and advocacy to give people the tools they need to navigate their job search with dignity, determination and hope after suffering a criminal conviction. The LPLA is committed to the belief that communities that work are communities that thrive.

Each year in California, close to a million people are convicted of a crime. About 83% of these offenses are for misdemeanors and about 17% are for felonies. Literally, millions of people in California are likely to be in need of legal advocacy when the try to enter the workforce with a criminal conviction. Unfortunately, in the arena of criminal records and work, resources are limited. There are few places that people can receive free legal assistance from advocates who are trained and knowledgeable in the area of employment and criminal records. Additionally, criminal records can create a barrier for people in search of housing.
The expungement clinic was created with the understanding that there are many reasons people become involved with the criminal justice system. Challenges such as poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, mental health struggles, histories of abuse, involvement in the child welfare system, inadequate education and a dearth of life skills can lead to criminal court involvement. Regardless of the reasons for court involvement, most of those who are convicted of a crime, pay the price for their offense and successfully move forward with their lives. Unfortunately, the area of employment is often one place where those with a criminal conviction are unable to overcome their past.

With the assistance of attorneys and law students from Loyola Law School and LPLA, clients can receive education and advocacy regarding rights in the workplace. Clients have more hope in finding places to live and in putting the past behind them.

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