Monday, June 2, 2014
An overflow crowd came to the Berkeley County Prosperity Center in Moncks Corner last week, looking for a second chance.
The event was an “expungement clinic.” Audience members heard attorney David Aylor educate them on expunging criminal records. Tommy Evans, assistant general counsel at the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, outline the process for pardons.
One 24-year-old attendee shared a typical story. He has had difficulty finding work and getting ahead in life because of a pair of drug possession convictions, most recently three years ago.
The young man came to the clinic to learn about clearing his record. “Being labeled as a felon really hinders you,” he said.
Most anyone arrested, even if the charges are subsequently dropped, may be in need of expungement, Aylor said. Even spouses of people arrested for crimes may be charged themselves and find they have a record when applying for a place to live, a job or a professional license.
“Expungement is the eraser of that arrest, including the mug shot,” Aylor said.
Minor charges like marijuana possession can generally be expunged after a year, said Aylor, if it’s the first charge.
Pardons are for people who can’t get their records expunged and can cover any charge, even murder. Pardons erase the punishment but not the record of the conviction. Probation, Parole and Pardon receives 60 to 75 applications a month and approves roughly 60 percent of them.
The clinic was a partnership among Trident United Way, Law Offices of David Aylor, and the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
Prosperity Center director Walter Simmons says there was so much demand for the clinic that the center will host more of them. The next scheduled clinic in the area will be June 18, 3-5 p.m. at the Dorchester Prosperity Center in Summerville.
The Prosperity Centers are a collective effort of Trident United Way, Palmetto Goodwill, Family Services Inc. and other non-profit organizations to help local residents achieve financial stability. Using their services, 118 families gained employment and exited Food Stamps last year.