Bethan works on Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s Clean Slate Project, which collaborates with community partners to provide direct reentry legal services for expungements and Certificates of Relief for dismissed charges and convictions across the state of North Carolina.
Today in the United States, about 1.6 million people are currently in prison; 4 million are on probation; and nearly 65 million have a criminal record. In the South, the prison population has grown faster than in any other region. Criminal justice is therefore a critically important issue–particularly so for communities of color.
Collateral consequences of a criminal conviction are formidable and often insurmountable barriers to successful reentry. They include disenfranchisement; denial of public employment and benefits; loss of professional licenses; and deportation. Southern states have more legal barriers to successful reentry than other regions of the country. According to a report by the Legal Action Center, which ranked all 50 states from best to worst based on the number of legal obstacles faced by people attempting to renter society, most of the southern states were ranked in the worst category, meaning they had the greatest number of roadblocks to reentry.
The entrenched criminal justice system is in urgent need of widespread reform. SCSJ’s Clean Slate Project is just a small piece of the overall effort to end mass incarceration and the overcriminalization of people of color. By providing community requested legal services to address collateral consequences, lawyers help directly affected people to obtain jobs and housing and ultimately join in community organizing efforts for change.
During the Bethan’s Fellowship, Bethan:
- Filed petitions in over 30 of the 100 NC counties
- Argued petitions in 7 counties
- Held 5 legal services clinics in 4 counties
- Engaged local court actors, including DAs, PDs, judges, and clerks, in learning about the Clean Slate Project and collateral consequences
- Developed a case management system and recruited and trained 12 law school interns and community volunteers to expand caseload capacity while maintaining high quality service for clients
- Continued providing direct legal services by holding 3 clinics
- Expanded filing Certificate of Relief and expunction petitions to at least 10 other counties
- Collaborated with partner organizations to challenge private landlords in denying housing to those with criminal records and Certificates of Relief
- Challenged at the state appellate level several trial court denials of Certificates of Relief and expunction petitions.
Kathleen Lockwood works with the Clean Slate Project to provide free representation for community members facing the collateral consequences of their criminal records. In this role, she works with other Project Fellows and volunteers to host quarterly Clean Slate Clinics across the state of North Carolina, determine eligibility for clinic participants and registrants, compile and file all required court documents for relief, represent clients before district and superior court judges, and attend community events to raise consciousness about the collateral consequences of criminal charges, dismissals, and convictions.
This project addresses the racially disparate impact of involvement with the criminal justice system; community barriers to housing, education, and employment opportunities; and the growing justice gap in communities of color.
During Kathleen’s Fellowship, Kathleen:
- Provide direct client services (identify clients, provide intake services, determine eligibility, prepare petitions, and go to court to seek appropriate relief for clients)
- Educate court staff on Clean Slate activities and the legal processes available to help individuals overcome barriers posed by a criminal record
- Raise consciousness about the collateral consequences of contact with the criminal justice system
- Follow up with clients and make referrals to agencies that can help them gain employment and access other basic services
- Implement sustainable change in the North Carolina State judicial system
Equal Justice Works Fellow Laura Holland worked with people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to successfully re-enter society.
Individuals with criminal histories suffer discrimination in employment and housing, even when the person’s criminal past is limited or in the distant past. The project focuses on expungements and Certificate of Reliefs to help people get relief from their criminal records.
Provide free representation for expunctions and Certificates of Relief to increase the employment and housing prospects for people with criminal records and ultimately improve community support for reducing the collateral consequences of criminal convictions.
This project addresses ongoing community needs to overcome the civil barriers constructed by state law so that people with criminal legal involvement can more fully contribute to their families and communities.