INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of people started the process of having their criminal records cleared at the Re-entry Steps to Expungement Fair on Saturday.
"It's hard to find jobs. When I fill out applications, I don't know what to put, what not to put. It's just a very big obstacle that sucks," Amanda Weliever said.
It's been six years since Weliever was charged with a crime. She's done her time, paid her debt to society and is ready to start the net chapter of her life.
At the event, people were able to meet with lawyers and learn about the process of clearing their records. This isn't the first fair the Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS) has held, but it's the biggest.
"It shows us that there's a large need, especially in Marion County, for expungements. Expunging a record a be something as little as taking a candy bar when you were younger, or driving home drunk from the bars in your twenties," OPHS' re-entry programs manager, Josiah Johnson, said.
FBI records indicate that nearly 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. Having a record can make it harder to get a job or find housing. OPHS hopes expungement will help.
"The individual can get a higher paying job, which contributes to taxes, which contributes back to society. If we can help these individuals in one way, then it helps everyone in the end," Johnson said.
Under Indiana law, most misdemeanors can be expunged after five years and felonies after eight years. But there are exceptions and it's a complicated, detailed process. Lawyers with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic were on hand to help everyone get started.
For Weliever, the day offers hope for her four-year-old daughter, Maddy.
"I've had a whole kid since then. I'm not the same person. I made a very bad mistake, and that's not who I am today, and I'm sure that's how everyone feels. People grow," she said.
Anyone who missed Saturday's event can still get free expungement assistance from the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. They offer walk-ins on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9-4 at their office at 151 N. Delaware St., or by appointment.
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