WASHINGTON – Sen. Camera Bartolotta, together with The City Mission, Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Aid, and the Washington County Bar Association will host a free clinic, “Clean Slate Day,” for expungements or pardons of criminal records on Friday, April 1, for residents of the City Mission homeless shelter and eligible members of the public.
Clean Slate Day will take place at the City Mission, 84 West Wheeling St., in Washington from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. City Mission residents and eligible members of the public can meet with the volunteers beginning at 10 a.m. Pre-registration is requested, but walk-ins will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
“People who have made mistakes but have worked to turn their lives around should not be penalized for the remainder of their lives because the expungement or pardon process can seem overwhelming or confusing. This event is about ensuring those individuals who have earned their second chance have the necessary resources to overcome barriers and achieve the greatest success legally possible. That is why I support initiatives like Clean Slate Day and have advocated for a number of criminal justice reform measures to streamline reentry to the workforce while protecting public safety,” said Sen. Bartolotta.
An expungement is a legal court order that removes a criminal record from public view when appropriate. Courts can also consider “limited access” requests to shield from public view non-violent misdemeanor convictions, so long as the person making the request has received no additional convictions for the past 10 years. If someone is ineligible for expungement, he or she may submit a pardon application to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons at no cost. Though it takes much longer for a pardon to be granted – one to three years – nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions can be pardoned if an applicant demonstrates a change in his or her life since the arrest along with an important need for the pardon, such as increasing employment opportunities.
In 2021, a group of public officials, along with social and legal services leaders, formed the Pardon Project of Washington County to identify high quality pardon applicants and match them with “pardon coaches” to help them complete and submit applications. To date, the project has screened more than 80 candidates and has matched more than 20 of them with coaches. To be eligible for the project, one must have a Washington County record or be a county resident, and have completed probation or parole at least three years ago for a crime that is not a violent felony and does not involve sexual offender registration. Volunteers will have pardon applications on hand to help eligible attendees get the process started. Read more about the pardon project here.
Brian Gorman, executive director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Aid, argues that expunging, sealing or pardoning a criminal record is a win-win for the individual and the community. “Removing the barrier of a criminal record for a reformed person increases their employment and income opportunities while boosting an employer’s workforce, providing multiple benefits to the public’s economy. Well over 90% of people who contact us about their prior record are looking for a job or a better job.”
The City Mission’s Legal Clinic has joined with Legal Aid and the Bar Association for Expungement Days in 2017, 2019 and 2021, and approximately 60 people attended on average.
In addition to residents of the City Mission, members of the public also are welcome to attend Clean Slate Day, and those with a total household income of 187.5% of the federal poverty guidelines or below are eligible for free legal aid. The Washington County Bar Association’s volunteer attorneys will be available at the event to discuss other legal resources and referral options for those who are not income-eligible for assistance.
For information and to pre-register for April 1 Clean Slate Day, contact SW PA Legal Aid at 724-225-6170 or 800-846-0871. Contact the Bar Association at 724-225-6710 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on removing criminal records also is available here or by emailing Southwestern PA Legal Aid at email@example.com.
Sen. Camera Bartolotta: Katrina Hanna
SW PA Legal Aid: Brian Gorman, Esq.
724-225-6170 ext. 2782
Washington County Bar Association: Kathy Sabol