EDITORIAL: Expungement clinics a vital step in offering much-needed second chances
As a nation, one of our best attributes is that we believe in second chances.
Failure should not define you.
That’s because all of us have failed.
It’s much more important how you react after you fail.
That’s why we should all support measures that give a hand up to those individuals who’ve made mistakes, paid their debts to society and are looking to establish better lives.
To their credit, a number of local organizations are doing just that.
The York City Council on Wednesday, May 30, adopted a resolution in favor of expungement clinics. The resolution supports efforts by the York County Bar Association and the Harrisburg-based MidPenn Legal Services to educate and assist individuals with criminal records regarding expungement.
Expungement, for the those who aren’t familiar with it, is a court order requiring all relevant law enforcement agencies to erase a record of a criminal arrest or conviction. The process is mostly used for summary crimes, such as retail theft, breaking and entering and vandalism.
So, we’re not talking about Public Enemy No. 1 here. We’re talking about petty criminals.
And in Pennsylvania, it only applies if 10 years have passed since the crime and the individual has remained conviction free.
Getting a record expunged can be a complicated process, especially here in Pennsylvania — a state where it’s traditionally tough to have a record wiped.
Because of that, the expungement clinics are tremendously valuable to folks who are trying to put their lives back together again after making a criminal error in judgment.
Expungement is vital because those with minor criminal records can have trouble getting jobs, finding housing or pursuing an education.
Those difficulties can lead to a vicious cycle of returning to crime and returning to prison, which can become a major drain on our society.
Preventing recidivism is an effort that we should all support. It’s not a right or left issue, but a common-sense issue.
George W. Bush had it right when he said: “America is the land of the second chance — and when the gates of the prison open, the path should lead to a better life.”
The United States incarcerates more people than any nation in the world. In fact, there are roughly 65 million individuals in the country with a criminal record. That’s not something to be proud of.
It’s a problem in drastic need of improvement.
The process of expungement is a critical first step in offering a much-needed second chance.