University News

WNE and Partners Host Criminal Record Expungement Clinic and Job Fair

Published: May 02, 2023 | Categories: All News, Law
Event poster "Reclaiming Futures Unlocking Opportunity"

Western New England University's School of Law's Center for Social Justice (CSJ) partnered with Western Mass CORE at Holyoke Community College (HCC) and MassHire Holyoke's Pillars of the Community Workforce to host a Criminal Record Expungement and Sealing Clinic and CORI-friendly job fair on April 6, 2023. The event, which coincided with national "Second Chance Month," provided free legal advice and a chance for individuals with criminal records to learn about the expungement and sealing process, receive a free copy of their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report, and connect with potential employers, and community and college resources.

The event was critical in helping individuals with criminal records overcome barriers to employment, housing, and education. Nicole Hendricks, co-coordinator of WMass CORE, stressed the importance of this event, saying, "A criminal record can create significant barriers to employment, housing, and education. This touches on every aspect of a person's life and can make it very difficult to be successful. Even a minor offense can limit opportunities to move forward." WMass CORE, a college pathways program for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, was founded in 2019 to provide "Community, Opportunity, Resources, and Education" to those impacted by the criminal legal system.

The Justice Bus, the Center for Social Justice's free mobile legal clinic, was present at the event, where the Center utilized over a dozen legal volunteers, including CSJ staff attorney Gladys Vila-Carreras and Boston-based attorney Crispin Birnbaum, who supervised local attorneys and student volunteers from the law school. Representatives from other community organizations, such as the Hampden County Sheriff Department's All-Inclusive Support Service program (AISS), HCC's Culinary Arts program, HCC's Thrive Student Resource Center and Food Pantry, and El Centro, HCC's support center for Hispanic and Latinx students, also attended.

Over 130 people came to the event from 26 communities in Hampden County. MassHire generated over 50 on-site CORI reports, and Center for Social Justice volunteers provided free legal assistance to 30 individuals.

"The high attendance reflects the significant need in the community for support with expungement and sealing of criminal records, as well as job opportunities and other resources," said Ariel Clemmer, director of the Center for Social Justice. "We look forward to connecting with the community and bringing our free legal kiosks, Justice Bus, and other area resources to anyone in need of legal assistance."