The second annual National Expungement Week (N.E.W) will be held from September 21-28, 2019, with events in 30 cities throughout the country. A coalition of more than three dozen organizations working at the intersection of the cannabis industry, racial equity, and reparative justice, led by Equity First Alliance and Cage-Free Repair, conceived the week to highlight the need to fully integrate those disenfranchised by the war on drugs within their respective communities. Events to be featured throughout the week include free clinics to help remove, seal, or reclassify eligible convictions from criminal records (depending on local legislation), as well as provide expungement education workshops and complementary services.
Lauren Kruz is on the Leadership Steering Committee for Equity First Alliance and said, “Far too many people are still incarcerated in the US for non-violent crimes and many more are still impacted after they complete their time. By creating more access to legal relief and wraparound services people will have much more success re-entering their communities. National Expungement Week has grown this year from 14 cities to over 40 events nationwide. We are a group of organizers that come from many difference places and backgrounds and we come together to heal the harms of the racist war on drugs.”
N.E.W. events have inspired teams of attorneys, organizers, and activists nationwide to continue to increase expungement opportunities where possible, with over 40 events scheduled to take place throughout the week. Cities featuring participating events have nearly doubled from 16 in 2018 to 30, including major hubs such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.
“Too many people are locked up in this country, and far too many people are still locked out of society long after they’ve completed their sentence. This week offers a way to provide legal relief and wraparound services to justice-impacted people and their families while calling for automated expungement,” says Torie Marshall, Director of Programs at Cage-Free Repair.
The inaugural N.E.W., which ran from October 20-27, 2018, is credited with leading 298 people to record clearing and sealing – resulting in a public benefit of over $3 million in its first year alone. Over 400 people also received related social services including employment resources, voter registration, and health screenings. Though expungement legislation, especially in regards to cannabis convictions, has gained in acceptance across the political spectrum, the laws themselves present a virtual web of legal procedures and restrictions, solidifying N.E.W.’s push to expand access to expungement and streamline the use of automated expungement.
N.E.W.’s launch on September 21st coincides with Code For America’s National Day of Civic Hacking, and Code For America’s volunteer Brigades have chosen to focus on record clearance this year. Many Brigades are working with local N.E.W. organizers to combine live events with technological solutions. N.E.W. also coincides with National Voter Registration Day, which highlights the need for voting rights restoration, and the N.E.W. website provides a link to an online toolkit so communities can organize such events beyond the scope of the week.
“Every community’s events look different. In Boston, our event will feature record clearance and GED services, voter registration, and a City Councilor candidate forum. In Chicago, educational events will let people know about recent changes in the state’s expungement and cannabis laws. In Washington, DC, N.E.W. events will provide housing and legal assistance, resume workshops, and other re-entry services,” says Joe Gilmore, President of Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, one of the participating organizations.