Just because a person is released from prison or jail does not mean their punishment is over.
A criminal record makes finding housing, transportation or education much more difficult, said Crystal Gayden, chair of the L. Clifford Davis Legal Association Expunction Clinic.
Attorneys volunteering for the free expunction clinic, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Arlington City Hall, will help some qualified people who have been charged with a crime have their criminal records sealed from most prospective employers, landlords or others, Gayden said.
Others will qualify to have their criminal records expunged, which means they will be hidden from almost everyone except certain law enforcement officials, Gayden said. The clinic serves only those who had charges that originated in Tarrant County, Gayden said.
"It's helpful for people who have made mistakes," Gayden said. "It can help with getting employment, housing and student loans, things they may have had some difficulty getting in the past."
Those interested in participating must complete an application and provide a copy of their criminal records on Saturday. The information can be obtained from the L. Clifford Davis Legal Association.
The application will be reviewed by an attorney. Those who qualify will be called back for an interview to allow the attorney to file an expungement or non-disclosure petition, Gayden said.
Attorney's fees for the process, which can typically range from $1,500 to $3,500, are waived, Gayden said. Court costs can also be waived for some qualified applicants, Gayden said.
Get there early.
"This is our fourth clinic," Gayden said. "The first clinic we held the line went around the building."
Monty Sharp, a re-entry coordinator for Re-Entry First Stop Center, said the service fills a vital need for those trying to stay clean and earn a second chance.
For the past 10 years, an average of 1,600 people released from prisons and jail return to or settle in Tarrant County, Sharp said.
Chances are, if someone has spent more than 90 days in jail, they have lost their job, housing, their car, and often friends and family have abandoned them, Sharp said.
"If they've done their time and they are trying to get back on their feet, they deserve a chance," Sharp said. "You have to at least give them the tools to do what they have to do."