A local non-profit organization says it is responsible for getting criminal records expunged. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland held a news conference Wednesday announcing his new drive to pay for expungements for non-violent offenders.
“Expunging people’s record is important in so many ways,” says Mayor Strickland.
Strickland said some people deserve a second chance. He’s been pushing to expunge criminal records of non-violent offenders. “It helps people find a job or a better job. And then secondly it just helps with self-esteem.”
Just City executive director Josh Spickler says his organization has been working to get expungements for non-violent offenders since Just City was formed two years ago. Spickler says they’ve gotten two bills passed, but there’s more work to be done.
“We have helped more than 175 people get expungements since we’ve been around. We’ve paid $450 for each one of those people,” says Spickler.
Non-violent offenses that qualify for expungement include property crimes and writing bad checks. Spickler says it’s paid off.
“We got a bill through the general assembly this year that will reduce that will reduce some expungement from $450 to $280. We also got a bill through that will expand eligibility to two offenses instead of just one,” says Spickler.
Spickler commends Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s drive to pay for expungements and new laws that would make it easier for non-violent criminals to get a job and a second chance. But Spickler says this is something his organization originally started and they will continue to fight for fair rights.
“We really need to take a comprehensive look at expungement and what it could mean if we really let people get back to work after they’ve paid their debt.”
Supporting Mayor Strickland’s vision is District Attorney General Amy Weirich and Representative Raumesh Akbari.
“They have gotten their life together and they are not part of the problem,” says Weirich.
“I don’t want anybody to suffer for the consequences of their actions on their worst day,” says Rep. Abkari. Akbari commended Just City for their work in fighting for fair rights. Weirich and Strickland say it’ll take everybody to step up and help.
“Everyone talks about what it’s gonna take to change our community and move the needle. This is one way you can help do that. By writing a checklist and helping someone clear their record,” says Weirich.
“The people we’ve helped have told me how important it was to them to wipe this off their record,” says Strickland.
From Mayor Jim Strickland’s Facebook page:
Today, we announced that donations to our Better Memphis Fund, which pays expungement fees for people who have committed nonviolent offenses, will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $25,000, thanks to a generous grant from the Speer Charitable Trust.
A fundraiser for the Better Memphis Fund will be held June 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hattiloo Theatre. It will be the second fundraiser we’ve held to pay for expungements, following a March 2016 event that raised about $55,000 and has helped pay for about 80 expungements thus far.
I was proud to be joined at today’s announcement by state Rep. Raumesh Akbari and District Attorney General Amy Weirich. In the most recent session of the Tennessee General Assembly, Rep. Akbari successfully sponsored bills, which we supported and lobbied for, that will lower expungement fees and allow two nonviolent offenses to be expunged.
By helping those who need their records expunged but can’t afford the fee, we’re lending a helping hand to someone who wants to make a better, more productive life. I challenge Memphians to help us do more and meet the generous challenge of the Speer Charitable Trust. And thanks to Rep. Akbari’s leadership in the General Assembly, those fees are now lower, which lowers the bar for those needing an expungement and allows our Better Memphis Fund dollars to go even farther.
Beneficiaries of the Better Memphis Fund also receive job and soft skills training from our Workforce Investment Network.
In addition to the June 5 event, donations can be made to the fund online through the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis at the link below. One hundred percent of the donations are used to pay for expungements.
Need more information about the process to obtain an expungement? Call the City of Memphis Office of Community Affairs at 576-6203.