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National Expungement Week Is Underway: Here's What You Need To Know

September 21, 2020 3:16 pm
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The third iteration of the National Expungement Week (N.E.W.), focused on offering expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with criminal records, is currently underway.

Between Monday and Friday, people will be able to attend virtual and in-person clinics visiting https://nationalexpungementweek.org.

Since its inception in 2018, N.E.W’s year-round work has led 1,000 people through the process of clearing or sealing convictions and over 3,000 to wraparound services addressing reparative justice, voting rights, and housing, and food insecurity.

“This is a week of collective action to bring awareness to systemic damage caused by the war on drugs,” said N.E.W. co-founder LaTorie ‘Torie’ Marshall.  “Our call to action is for all those who profit from the cannabis industry to invest time, money, and resources in those needing support for reentry.”

Below is a list of frequently asked questions shared by N.E.W.

About Expungement And Record Sealing

Expungement vs Record Sealing?

These terms have different meanings. Expungement typically means that a criminal record is destroyed, while a sealed record still exists and can be viewed by law enforcement and some employers.

Are expungement and record-sealing laws the same throughout the U.S.?

No. Expungement, record sealing, set-asides, and other post-conviction relief policies are VERY different state to state, sometimes even county by county. You should check the status of your state’s record clearance law at the Collateral Consequences Resource Center website.

In general, what types of offenses are eligible for expungement or sealing?

Typically, some misdemeanors and low-level felonies are eligible for relief, but there are many exceptions. Consult the Collateral Consequences Resource Center website to find out what may be eligible for relief in your state.

Can I have my record expunged or sealed if I am currently awaiting sentencing or serving time in prison or jail?

Generally speaking, no. You should check the status of your state’s record clearance law at the Collateral Consequences Resource Center website.

About N.E.W. & Expungement Week 2020

What is N.E.W.?

N.E.W. is a collective of reparative justice advocates and organizers from across the country focused on restoring the rights of the disenfranchised.  Their signature event, National Expungement Week, offers expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans across the US with convictions on their records. These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served.  N.E.W. initiatives and events offer as many wraparound services as possible to restore people’s rights and lift up communities. N.E.W. will provide awareness and relief services all year leading up to a week of awareness and action on September 19-26 2020.

When and where will N.E.W. events take place?

National Expungement Week 2020 (N.E.W. 20) will take place from September 19 – 26, 2020 with virtual and/or in-person events in cities across the United States and Canada. For a complete list of cities and events, visit https://nationalexpungementweek.org

Who’s behind N.E.W.?

N.E.W. represents a coalition of more than three dozen organizations working at the intersection of the cannabis industry, racial equity, and reparative justice, led by We BAKED and Cage-Free Repair.

Please visit https://nationalexpungementweek.org/about to learn more about the N.E.W.’s origins.

Who’s sponsoring  N.E.W. 20?

N.E.W. is made possible by presenting sponsor businesses and organizations, local sponsors and partners, and the tireless work of community-based organizations dedicated to repairing harms of the War on Drugs.

How long has N.E.W. been around?

The first N.E.W. was organized from October 20-27, 2018, with participating events in 15 cities across the country.  N.E.W 2019 expanded upon the success of the inaugural event on September 21 – 28, 2019 with over 40 events in over 30 cities across the United States.

Can I just show up to a N.E.W. clinic or sign on to a virtual event to get my record expunged/sealed?  Do I need to bring/present documentation?  If so, what kind?

Record clearance laws and policies differ greatly, state by state – sometimes even county by county. It’s important to consult the information on the flyer for the N.E.W. event near you to determine what kind of legal relief may be available, whether you need to pre-register for the event, and what documents (LiveScan, photo ID, etc.) you may need to bring to the clinic itself.

Are N.E.W. events only about expunging/sealing records?

N.E.W. events offer many wraparound services to restore people’s rights and lift up communities, including employment resources, voter registration, and health screenings.

Is N.E.W. cannabis-specific?

No, anyone in need of expungement or record-sealing processing, education, or other supporting services is welcome at N.E.W. events.

Has N.E.W actually helped anyone clear their record?

To date, N.E.W. is credited with leading over 1,000 people to record clearing and sealing – resulting in a public benefit of over $7 million. One such person is Mauro Melgar, who applied for and received an expungement through a California N.E.W. event in 2018.  He talks about his experience here.  Besides legal relief, over 3,000 people also received related social services.

Are N.E.W. 20 events the only time that I can get my record expunged/sealed?

No. N.E.W. is a permanent assistance network for marginalized communities nationwide. N.E.W.’s expungement week has also inspired teams of attorneys, organizers, and activists nationwide to continue to increase expungement opportunities whenever and wherever possible. To that end, the N.E.W. website provides a link to an online toolkit so communities can organize such events beyond the scope of the week.

Besides expungement and record sealing clinics, what else is  happening during

N.E.W. 2020?

N.E.W. events offer many wraparound services to restore people’s rights and lift up communities.  N.E.W. events will also include voter registration and education, food distribution, school supply giveaways and information on employment opportunities (to vary by city).

N.E.W. & COVID-19

What changes can we expect from N.E.W. 20 in the wake of  COVID-19?

Whether online and/or in-person, N.E.W. 20 is fully committed to expanding its reach and ability to measure overall impact, which has already generated a public benefit of over $7,000,000 to date.

How does N.E.W. 20 help in COVID-19 recovery?

Now more than ever, access to crucial services is needed in the rebuilding of lives and communities.  The most vulnerable in our communities, including those formerly incarcerated, face increased poverty, hunger and disparity.  Legal relief creates the opportunity for 77 million Americans with convictions to gain employment and fully participate in programs and services designed to aid in our economic recovery.

N.E.W. & Reparative Justice

How does the work of N.E.W. connect to other social justice causes and issues?

Expungement and record clearing/sealing is a social justice issue that is essential for our nation’s healing.  The legal relief and wrap-around services offered by N.E.W. are crucial for the removal of over 44,000 legal and socioeconomic barriers that exist for the disenfranchised.  Besides expungements, N.E.W. organizes around such issues as criminal justice reform, voting rights, and housing and food insecurity.

N.E.W. has also released a public statement outlining their support for reparative justice measures including:

  • The condemnation of all police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Mike Ramos, and Tony McDade and all officers who use their protected class status to end the lives of our community members.
  • A call for the end of the militarization of the police forces across the nation and the use of excessive force.
  • The defunding of police departments across the nation and the redirection of funds to schools, housing, and mental and physical healthcare.
  • Blanket amnesty for all freedom fighters who have been incarcerated during this time.

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