York City Council announces support of expungement clinics
The York City Council adopted a resolution in support of expungement clinics during a Wednesday, May 30, news conference at York City Hall.
The resolution supports efforts by the York County Bar Association and Harrisburg-based MidPenn Legal Services to educate and assist individuals with criminal records regarding expungement.
Expungement is a court order requiring all relevant law enforcement agencies to erase a record of a criminal arrest of conviction. The process is mostly used for summary crimes such as retail theft, breaking and entering and vandalism.
There are roughly 65 million individuals in the country with a criminal record, stated a Tuesday, May 29, news release from the county's Bar Association. Such records can hinder job opportunities, housing opportunities and educational assistance, the association said.
The county Bar Association first held an expungement clinic in the spring of 2016, said county Bar Association CEO Victoria Connor. Since then, they have offered counselling to more than 100 people.
"On any given day, when folks have criminal charges, even those that haven't resulted in convictions, those records are available online," she said. "It's very difficult in Pennsylvania to go through this process. We are one of the toughest states when it comes to getting expungements granted."
The state did, however, ease up its constricting expungement laws in November 2016.
The General Assembly passed a law that allowed for the expungement of convictions for second- or third-degree misdemeanors. The law only applies if 10 years have passed since the crime and the individual has remained conviction free.
Still, a wide variety of circumstances that can't be expunged remains, leaving open a high possibility of discrimination, Connor said.
"Discrimination based on your background happens all the time," she said. "It creates a significant socioeconomic barrier to employment, securing housing and many other things."
Due to the complicated nature of what can and can't be expunged from an individual's record, people "need to sit down with us one-on-one so we can educate them," she said.
York City Council President Henry Nixon is the leading council member in support of the efforts.
"The U.S. incarcerates more than any other country in the world," he said. "People make bad decisions, but hopefully they learn from them. We want to help them re-enter society and help them become productive citizens once again."
A free expungement clinic will be held 4-6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7, at Martin Library, 159 E. Market St. To register, contact Janelle Black, director of legal services for the county's Bar Association, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 717-854-8755.
— Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that there are roughly 65 million individuals in the country — not in Pennsylvania — with a criminal record.