(The featured image above is not actually of anyone mentioned in this article)
When he was a teenager, Malik, now 25, was mistakenly arrested and erroneously charged in five different cases for a string of robberies. The District Attorney’s office withdrew all of the charges against him once they realized the wrong person had been arrested. Even though Malik was not involved in the incidents in any way, the five cases-each with many serious charges-remained on his record. Malik’s record painted a picture of a career criminal, and he struggled to find work for several years. He was rejected from employment at hotels, airports, and construction jobs. When Malik came to Community Legal Services for help, his attorney was able to quickly file petitions to expunge the withdrawn charges. Within a matter of months, Malik had a clean record and was able to find a steady job at a warehouse.
All Amara needed was an internship to complete her Criminal Justice degree, but because she had been issued a summary citation as a teenager, employers didn’t give her résumé a second glance. Each year, thousands of Philadelphians are issued summary citations, which are akin to traffic tickets. In many cases, including Amara’s, the citations have been dismissed but still come up on background checks. During her futile job search, Amara learned the citation was still on her record and was causing her to lose internship and job opportunities. CLS successfully represented Amara in getting her record expunged, allowing Amara to complete her degree and begin working.
With as many as one in three Americans having some type of criminal record, criminal justice reform is vital to ending poverty. CLS has been advocating at all levels so that juvenile records, decades-old criminal records, summary offenses, criminal debt, and arrests without convictions do not hold people back from finding employment, obtaining housing, and accessing public benefits because we believe in fairness and second chances. In 2014, because of the support of our donors, CLS was able to:
- Report on young women of color with criminal records.
- Advocate for the end of counterproductive attempts to collect old bail judgements.
- Educate Philadelphians on the City’s new marijuana possession law and help get expungements for those with criminal records due to arrest of possession for marijuana.
- Stand up for innocent parents unfairly labeled as child abusers.
- Support litigation aiming to allow individuals to discharge criminal court fees and costs through bankruptcy procedures.
- Bust the myth that juvenile records are protected from public view and publish an article on what states should doto help people with juvenile records escape poverty.
- Show how arrests without convictions are being improperly used as grounds to deny employment.
- Publish a report on how ill-conceived public policies are leading to devastating consequences for people with criminal records.
You can help us break down employment barriers and promote criminal justice reform by making your gift to CLS today. Thank you for your support!