In the post 9/11 era, it’s harder than ever to live down one’s past. Background checks by employers and rental agents go farther back and into greater detail than was customary before national security became a major concern. In the post 9/11 era, it’s harder than ever to live down one’s past. Background checks by employers and rental agents go farther back and into greater detail than was customary before national security became a major concern. The result is that law abiding citizens are denied employment, are fired from jobs they’ve had for years and, in this time of scarce housing resources, lose out on even the scant supply of affordable housing that exists. This because of old criminal charges, some as long ago as 20 years. The range includes charges that were dismissed or otherwise did not lead to conviction. It could be a case of welfare fraud or an offense from one’s youth such as damage to property: the damage is as severe as if the incident took place today — despite that a person may have moved on in life to lead a productive existence. This practice significantly impacts African Americans, a population whose disproportionate interaction with criminal justice systems is a long-standing matter of record across the nation.
Judge LaJune T. Lange (Fourth Judicial District Court) addressed the issue last week’s Insight News KMOJ/Public Policy Forum, focusing on how one may rectify his or her situation by having the legal record expunged. The International Leadership Institute, she explained, has established a civic education series, “The Expungement Workshop”. “It shows people how to seal old criminal records, showing people step by step the remedies that are available but are [not common knowledge] to the community,” explained Lange.
According to Lange, the workshops instruct participants in the process by which criminal records can be expunged. This eliminates having to disclose such information on applications or in interviews. And when a background check is done, the information will not show up.
Lange underscored that it is to many African Americans’ advantage to take the workshop. “For example, President Bush, in his first four months in office, signed an executive order saying anyone with a drug conviction is ineligible for a [federal] student loan for college. It wipes out a number of our people who fall in that category and are either seeking to return to school or to continue their education.” The International Leadership Institute also provides solutions by which a person may expunge his or her record even if another individual has assumed the identity.
“We’ve had people come to our workshops who have simply been arrested and the charges dismissed --no prosecution what-so-ever-- and then denied access to housing. In our community, I would say that every family is impacted by this, because every family has somebody who has been stopped and had a charge placed on them.”