What’s an expungement? I’m glad you asked! In the state of Maryland, if you meet certain requirements, you can get your criminal record erased through a process called expungement.
Can you imagine what you once thought was your biggest obstacle was made smaller in an instant; made more manageable or removed completely? Can you imagine that this invisible thing you’ve carried around with you for years – that blocked things for you like obtaining housing, furthering your education, and getting a paycheck – just wasn’t there anymore?
Tierra Diggs couldn’t imagine that either. Like so many people that have involvement with the criminal justice system, Tierra didn’t think she would ever get a job. “Before I came to Goodwill, I wouldn’t apply for anything. I knew employers wouldn’t consider me – every week I would go on those job websites – but, I was hopeless. I told my case manager, “they won’t hire me”. When you see that, things that you were not found guilty of still defining you….Well, it hurt. I just asked for a second chance.”
It’s not just Tierra who feels like there was no way they could get a job and move on with their life. We heard it all the time – people trying to turn over a new leaf and get back on their feet, but held back by their past. It’s why we created LEAP – Horizon Goodwill’s Legal Expungement and Assistance Program.
With funding from United Way of Washington County, Goodwill’s LEAP team has been able to review nearly 500 cases for over 100 people. What we found was that over 50% of those cases can be removed from the public record. LEAP is about removing barriers, but it’s also more than that. LEAP brings together the legal, business and social service communities to remove barriers and to create opportunities for participants to pursue financial independence.
The program combines expungement services with readiness skills and job training. LEAP works to create access to employment opportunities that will have positive impact on your housing, public assistance, education, and your wallet.
For individuals with a criminal history, like Tierra, having even a minor criminal record can be a major barrier. Without expungement, a criminal history can remain a roadblock to financial security and employment. With a paycheck, an individual can address basic needs like food and clothing. With a clean record or significantly smaller “rap sheet”, an individual can target longer-term stability addressing issues like bankability and stable shelter for self and family.
Tierra is now employed full-time with Goodwill in our Production and Processing department. “When you have a job it keeps you occupied, you don’t think about trouble. You have something to wake up to. I didn’t think I would ever get my record expunged. With Goodwill and LEAP, I know now you can do anything you set your mind to.”
For more information about our LEAP program and job training services, check out www.horizongoodwill.org and as always, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.