“In New Orleans, everybody can hustle. I know I can step out my door and hustle, but I want to go get a good job. I don’t want to live pay check to pay check any more.” 23-year-old man seeking expungement of conviction
More than 500 people filed into Christian Unity Baptist Church in Treme on Saturday, waiting in line for as long as three hours to take the first steps toward getting their criminal records expunged.
The event, spearheaded by the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana, was an effort to help those with criminal records better compete for jobs, housing and government grants — areas in which past arrests or convictions can prove an insurmountable barrier.
“There are collateral consequences to conviction and they hit every area of your life,” said Adrienne Wheeler, a Loyola law graduate and director of law and policy for the organization.
Wheeler and fellow Loyola law graduate Ameca Reali founded JAC two years ago with the goal of serving both incarcerated and ex-incarcerated populations in Louisiana. They identified record expungements as one way to have a direct and meaningful impact.
More than 200 volunteers, including about 80 lawyers, helped guide participants in Saturday’s event through the multi-step process of getting an arrest record expunged. In Louisiana, whether a criminal offense is eligible for expungement depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the nature of the crime and the length of time since it was committed.