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Expungement: Getting Rid of the Criminal Record

Having a criminal record can cause many problems when trying to find work, a place to live, and even with developing meaningful social relationships.  But what if the criminal record can be removed through a process known as expungement.  In the article below, helpful information is giving to learn how, and if, one can do just that.

 

What is Expungement Law? 

Expungement law deals with the state court procedures for removing criminal records from public view. With few exceptions, arrest and conviction information is available for anyone to see by simply going to the courthouse and performing a public records search. This information can also be viewed online using any number of private criminal records databases. For those who thought they had paid their debt to society and left their legal troubles in the past, this can be a real problem. Old criminal records can be found by prospective employers, landlords, professional licensing boards, colleges and universities, as well as police officers, prosecutors, and judges in current court proceedings.

The best way to ensure an old mistake does not continue to harm an individual’s reputation and professional opportunities is to have the record expunged. The effect of an expungement varies by state, as does the terminology used to describe the process. A true expungement means that the court record is physically destroyed and no longer exists. Record sealing, on the other hand, means that the court will mark the record confidential and prohibit the public from viewing it, but the actual record is preserved. In a few states, the process is known as a “set aside.” Setting aside a conviction typically has the same effect as sealing it, but it can also refer to modifying the language of a judgment so the order is no longer considered a conviction.

Expunging Records of Arrest

Some of the worst examples of old criminal records resulting in negative consequences in an individual’s life involve records that the individual did not even know existed. This usually comes about when the person was arrested or issued a citation, but the case was later resolved in a manner that did not produce a conviction. The charges may have been dropped, reduced pursuant to a plea bargain, or the person may have taken the case to trial and obtained an acquittal. In any of these situations, it would be logical to assume that records of the incident are no longer available to the public. Unfortunately, even if there was never a conviction, records of the arrest may exist.

Arrest records have nothing to do with guilt or innocence of the underlying offense. They only establish that the police conducted an arrest. Even if the police were completely mistaken and the matter was eventually cleared up, the arrest itself can be enough to deter a hiring manager from extending a job offer, or a bank officer from approving a loan. There is no reason to wait until an arrest record is discovered. At that juncture, it may be too late to explain the situation, as the opportunity sought may have already gone to another candidate. Expunging the arrest record will avoid the entire problem. In most jurisdictions, arrest records can be expunged in as little as 30 days.

Convictions that Qualify for Expungement

If an individual was convicted, either by pleading guilty or being found guilty at trial, then the expungement process becomes more complex. Again, each state has enacted its own requirements. But generally, all misdemeanors and some serious felonies can be expunged. In order to qualify, the person seeking an expungement must show that he or she has complied with every aspect of the sentence imposed by the judge, including the successful completion of probation or parole. There will also be a waiting period. The length of the waiting period depends on the nature of the conviction, and there can be no new arrests or convictions during this time. Finally, there is usually a filing fee to be paid when the petition for expungement is submitted.

Updating Agency Databases

Once an expungement has been granted, the court will seal or destroy the criminal records in its possession. But what about the agencies and organizations that have previously entered the conviction into their databases? In many states, it is the individual’s responsibility to submit a copy of the expungement order to these entities along with a request that they update their records accordingly. Individuals or their attorneys may need to disseminate proof of the expungement to other courts, prosecuting attorney offices, the department of motor vehicles, family services agencies, and so forth.

Convincing an agency to honor an expungement order can raise issues of jurisdiction and comity. For example, the record of a state felony conviction may appear in the FBI database, to be found by employers or others conducting a background check. After expunging such a conviction, a copy of the court order instructing that all records must be destroyed should therefore be sent to the FBI. However, because the FBI is a federal agency, it is not bound to follow an order issued by a state court. To resolve issues like this, it is wise to hire an attorney not only to obtain the expungement order, but also to make sure the order is distributed to, and recognized by, the appropriate agencies.

Contact a Record Expungement Attorney

If you were previously charged with a crime, records of the incident may still exist. These records are available to the public and they can become a source of difficulty or embarrassment in the future. Get in touch with a local attorney today to learn if your records qualify for expungement. 

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American Parents & Incarceration

Engage in this excerpt taken from Angelina Grigoryeva and Aaron Gottlieb’s article regarding the impact incarceration has on parents in America as well as the cognitive, physical, and monetary strain that may be caused.

 

Prevalence and Social Patterning of Adult Child’s Incarceration among American Parents

Although adult child incarceration may have important social implications, it is of social concern on the population level if it is highly common, at least among certain social groups. However, there is no systematic empirical evidence of the risk of adult child incarceration and how it is distributed. Existing studies of the lifetime risk of imprisonment for adults provide some insight into the magnitude and social patterning of the risk of adult child imprisonment. For instance, Pettit and Western (2004) estimate that at the end of the 1990s, about one third of black non-college men had gone to prison by their mid-thirties, e.g., when their parents were still likely to be alive. However, these estimates cannot be translated directly to the risk of adult child imprisonment because the former is influenced not only by adult child’s imprisonment, but also by fertility and mortality processes. Therefore, in this study, we use life-table methods to calculate the risk of experiencing adult child imprisonment and explore how it varies by parent’s race and class (as measured by education).

 

Adult Child’s Incarceration and Parent’s Mental, Physical, and Economic Well-Being

Previous research on the consequences of incarceration for individual outcomes suggest that adult child’s incarceration may compromise parent’s emotional, physical, and economic wellbeing both in the short and long term (for example, Pager 2003; Wildeman 2010). Research on adult child-parent relationships shows that for aging parents, adult children are an important source of emotional support, physical care, and financial help (Seltzer and Bianchi 2013), all of which stop being available if a child is imprisoned. Moreover, having an adult child arrested, visiting him/her in prison, and dealing with his/her absence might be traumatizing and stressful for parents, and is also likely to be stigmatizing.

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Emotional Stability within the Family

Farhat Rehman shares her story as a mother with an incarcerated son.  Although prisoners may often struggle with mental anguish and must try and find coping methods, families of prisoners must do the same.  Rehman speaks of the challenges faced while coping with all that having an incarcerated child entails.  Read a portion of her excerpt below.

 

Incarceration has an impact on thousands of families across Canada. When a person is sentenced to time in prison, their families are often profoundly affected; they are separated from a son, daughter, sibling, parent or other relative. Feelings of stigma, guilt and shame are common, and can be compounded when the sentenced family member is also living with a mental health condition – a reality for many incarcerated individuals and their families.

My family life has been profoundly affected by incarceration ever since my son was sentenced in 2001. When the chasm of the prison system had swallowed him up, the world appeared dark with no hope of seeing daylight. Our lives took a drastic turn on that ominous day. Our family’s lives and relationships were forever changed.

As a mother, I couldn’t help but wonder over and over again why my son had committed such a serious criminal act. Why did his mind work this way? What could have been done to prevent this catastrophe? Why, after years of treatment in the mental health system, had he still fallen through the cracks? What could I have done differently that would have prevented this crime from taking place and tearing apart two families? Since then, there have been daily reminders as I speak to him and visit him in prison. For us, his family, the impact of my son’s action have sunk in gradually over time. The nightmare of prison has played havoc with his mental health conditions with all the ups and downs of a roller coaster, and it’s become a constant source of worry for our family.
 

The nightmare of prison has played havoc with his mental health conditions with all the ups and downs of a roller coaster, and it’s become a constant source of worry for our family.

 

Incarceration affects family relationships, family traditions and family futures

As we have learned, in-person visits can be traumatic for the visitor. When visiting someone in prison, you have to first pass through layers of security such as the ion scanner (a drug-scanning device known for detecting false positives). Otherwise, you risk being turned away, which can seriously impact the inmate’s prison life.

There is no occasion that is celebrated as a family where I don’t feel my son’s absence. The festivities, the good food and laughter lack the genuine happiness that can come from family gatherings. This is never really talked about openly.

Family members will occasionally ask about my son and he may receive birthday cards from family and friends, but there is a kind of hesitation to discuss such a sad subject and ruin a festive atmosphere. The fact a family member has not been seen among you for almost 16 years registers low on the Richter scale of family life.

These days, as I contemplate the possibilities of the future, I wonder if this will be the time that my son will be able to start to turn his life around. Will he convince the authorities that he is deeply remorseful and resolved to never offend again? Will he be seen as worthy of being allowed to be paroled out of prison and into the community, where he can start the long process of healing and repairing the ravages of a lengthy period of incarceration? Will he be able to reintegrate himself into our family, one that misses him terribly but has adapted to life in his absence?

The love and light of support gets families through

While I contemplate these questions daily, I am grateful for the support of those around me. When my son – and my family – first began our journey with the justice system, I felt like I was travelling down an uncharted road. Despite being well connected to community, there was no real support I could turn to where others would understand what it was like to have a son in prison.
 

Despite being well connected to community, there was no real support I could turn to where others would understand what it was like to have a son in prison.

 
In November 2010, a community activist and expert connected to the Church Council on Justice and Corrections and a crisis worker at the John Howard Society (JHS) introduced me to another mother with a son in prison. We all met for the first time at JHS in December 2010 – three mothers coming together with common experiences and goals.

From this shared experience, Mothers Offering Mutual Support (MOMS), a support group for women, was born. The first formal MOMS meeting occurred on December 15, 2010. Our meetings take place at the local JHS building, during the first Thursday of the month. JHS has generously donated this space to us so we can meet in a location with privacy.

We now total more than 45 members, all of whom feel immensely grateful to be able to come together and climb out of the black hole we fell into when our children were convicted of an offence resulting in their incarceration. Now we come together to support each other and find ways to help them in a meaningful and constructive way. Mothers whose sons have completed their sentence or are on parole continue to support and guide the new members who join the group.

A loving family on the outside can play an important role in advocating, financially supporting and providing loving contact to offset the indelible ravages of incarceration. Through MOMs, we are able to support each other as we support our incarcerated children.
 

A loving family on the outside can play an important role in advocating, financially supporting and providing loving contact to offset the indelible ravages of incarceration.

 
The harsh realities of incarceration are with us, but together we encourage each other to take one day at a time. We have been working to ensure the justice system facilitates rehabilitation and education, with a focus on physical and mental well-being and supporting our sons or daughters while they serve their sentences and plan for their futures. This has provided us with opportunities to engage in dialogue with government and community leaders about human rights. Policies and programs benefit from understanding our lived experiences and our perspective as mothers. We have been encouraged by increased public awareness of these issues.

As you can imagine, for some moms and family members, issues of stigma and safety keep us fearful of speaking out publicly, even though we are worried sick and lose sleep thinking about the condition of our children. We do not want to add to our shame and worry by being on the receiving end of insensitive or negative comments.

As mothers affected by incarceration, we meet regularly to share our experiences and our shock, pain and heartbreak. Working together gives us energy to focus on strategies to equip ourselves with knowledge and best practices to keep ourselves and our loved ones hopeful and healthy. We are determined to achieve humane and just treatment for our loved ones in prison as we work together to strengthen the ties that bind us in our struggle as families affected by incarceration.

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Hiring Former Inmates

Finding employment with a criminal record can prove challenging.  Many businesses perform background checks on all applicants, and once the organizations learn of criminal activity, many of them don’t hesitate to refrain from moving forward with the hiring process.  Most of those formerly incarcerated persons don’t get as much as an interview.

Fortunately, there is hope.  In an excerpt from Careeronestop.org, the article mentions several ways and methods in which former inmates can enhance their likelihood of getting hired.  Continue reading below.

 

 [W]hat can [former inmates] do to increase [their] chances of getting hired? Here are a few tips:

Contact a community organization. There are hundreds of local service providers across the country who specialize in helping ex-offenders find work.

  • Different local service providers offer different services. Some place workers in jobs with local employers. Others offer training and resources to help with your job search.
  • Find a service provider near you by selecting your state in the State Resources box at the bottom of this page.

Use multiple ways to connect with employers. Try several of the following:

  • Talk with family, friends, counselors and others about the kind of work you’d like, and ask for job leads.
  • Contact employers in person, by phone and online to ask about job openings in your field.
  • Apply to jobs you find in online job banks.
  • Attend job fairs and introduce yourself to different employers.
  • Visit employers in your community to apply for jobs.

 

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Strategies for Strength

It’s important to remember that you must find ways to remain strong during times of pain, frustration, and adversity faced in life.  Here, Monalisa shares 8 strategies used to do just that. #PWIC, PWICUS

To learn what these strategies are, click here.

Share any strategies or strength building mechanisms used to help you cope by emailing us at: info@pwicus.com.

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Help Them, Don’t Hurt Them

Managing daily hardships can be difficult enough.  It’s even more challenging when faced with larger difficulties, such as the imprisonment of a loved one.

Still, it is important to remember why your loved one is in prison.  Then offer the support needed so that he/she will not repeat the behaviors that led them to incarceration. #PWIC, # PWICUS

It’s uncanny that some families will fall into the trap of enabling negative behavior, or diminishing the severity of that behavior.  You certainly want to help your loved one, but do so in the most constructive way possible.

Share with us: info@pwicus.com

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year again.  No matter what your resolution may be, we at PWIC are wishing you all the best. #PWIC

We’re also still here to listen, so feel free to share with us at: info@pwicus.com.

Make this year the best year yet.

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A Critical Society

Join in as Monalisa has a panel-fashioned discussion on the mental state of society toward person’s who are incarcerated.  This video examines society’s mental issue with being overly critical. #PWIC, #PWICUS

Watch NOW.

Email us: info@pwicus.com

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Merry Christmas

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

To my PWIC family, remember to stay encouraged, and have a very Merry Christmas.

Feel free to leave comments at:  info@pwicus.com

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Crime While Incarcerated

Why do inmates break the rules while in prisoner?  Is it because they are innately malicious people who are harmful to themselves, society, and lack self-control?  Probably not.

In a report by nicic.gov, inmates have the same basics needs as anyone else.  In 1943, Abraham Maslow identifies five primary needs that we as humans have.  The needs are: physiological, safety, love, esteem,  and self-actualization. #PWIC, #PWICUS

If an inmate, for example, is deprived of one of these needs such as food, they are likely to engage in misconduct.  The same is true for those in society.  If some of you miss a meal, you may feel angry or unhappy.

Learn more about inmate behavior here.

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