The Criminal Record Expungement Project (“CREP”) aims to ameliorate the negative effects of criminal records on the Philadelphia community. Since background checks have become routine throughout the country, it is increasingly difficult for individuals with a criminal record to pursue opportunities regarding employment, housing, benefits, and education. The goal of the project is to connect law students with the communities of North and West Philadelphia in order to assist in the expungement of non-conviction data from the clients’ criminal records.
CREP is encompassed within the Philadelphia Lawyer’s for Social Equity (“PLSE”), a non-profit legal aid organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income individuals who are affected by the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. The clients that CREP assists are low-income residents of North and West Philadelphia who have criminal records.
The time commitment of each volunteer will vary, depending on which of CREP’s various projects the student wishes to partake in. There are three ways that students can get involved with CREP: 1) intakes; 2) draft petitions; 3) be involved in litigating cases. There are three intakes per semester (running from approximately 11:30am-3:30pm on Saturdays), and a few hours of follow-up work required where students are asked to write short summaries for the clients they meet with as well as upload forms to the Google drive. Students may attend any of the three intakes, depending on availability. Volunteers taking part in the petition drafting portion of the project should expect to complete the hour-long petition drafting training and spend a few hours drafting petitions based on the number of docket/cases they are assigned. Volunteers interested in advocating for clients in court must attend the hour-long litigation training session to become court certified. Upon being certified, volunteers will be assigned cases to litigate and the time commitment will vary depending on how many cases are assigned to the student (CREP tries to limit each volunteer’s commitment to approx. 5hrs for the litigation portion).
CREP volunteers will gain a number of vital skills from this project. They will obtain a much deeper and personal understanding of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania and how the expungement process works. Additionally, those that partake in petition drafting and litigation will improve their writing abilities and advocacy skills. Students will also develop their communication skills by having the ability to engage with the community members and supervising attorneys.
There are many positive aspects of CREP, but what we love about the project most is the ability to learn from the individuals in our community and listen to their stories and experiences. This allows us to become more informed and compassionate law students and community members generally. Among many things, CREP has given us the ability to understand the criminal justice system at a deeper level and to be able to think critically about how we can best serve our community as lawyers in training.
|John Martin||Intake Coordinator|
|Valerie Snow||Case Manager|
|Grace Gale||Outreach Coordinator|
|Sarah Bleiberg||Litigation Coordinator|
|Allison Perlin||Litigation Coordinator|