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Legal Aid of West Michigan and Greater Grand Rapids NAACP partner on expungement program

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The Clean Slate Pathway program focuses on arming lower income communities of color, that have been disproportionately impacted within the criminal justice system, with free legal aid to get past mistakes expunged from their criminal records.

The Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, Legal Aid of Western Michigan and Warner Norcross + Judd LLP are partnering to provide free legal help to community members who wish to improve their lives by expunging past mistakes from their criminal records.

Legal Aid of Western Michigan launched its Clean Slate Pathway project with three main goals: building awareness about new state expungement laws, delivering free legal help to clients and empowering those clients to seize new opportunities by wiping past mistakes from their record.

“The shadows from old criminal records can loom for far too long over people who have earned the right to move on,” said Legal Aid Executive Director Pam Hoekwater. “Expungement can change the lives of thousands of our neighbors, coworkers, and family members, with those benefits rippling out to strengthen West Michigan as a whole. We are delighted to work with two great partners toward such an important goal.”

The initiative is focusing on lower income communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted within the criminal justice system. The Greater Grand Rapids NAACP is spreading the word about how expungements can uplift individuals as well as communities, and connecting people with Legal Aid to learn about legal help options.

“It is no secret that historically Black and other underserved communities make up a disproportionate amount of convictions and also have been subject to mass incarceration at rates much higher than other communities,” said NAACP-GR President Cle J. Jackson. “For those individuals who have reformed their lives, they deserve the opportunity to get a ‘Clean Slate’ in order to obtain gainful employment, live a productive life and be a contributing member of society. We are excited about this partnership with Legal Aid and Warner to be able to make expungement resources more available and accessible to those who need it the most.”

While Jackson’s team is focused on spreading the word, Warner and Legal Aid attorneys will provide free legal help to eligible clients, that includes determining if a criminal record is expungable, filing expungement applications with the courts, and attending hearings with their clients.

“We are honored to partner with Legal Aid and the NAACP on this critically important initiative,” said Christian Meyer, pro bono co-coordinator at Warner. “From providing opportunities for career advancement to opening doors to travel, expungement delivers the kind of practical, real-world results we all want to obtain for clients. We’re seeing tremendous enthusiasm from Warner attorneys eager to volunteer their time for Clean Slate Pathway. We recognize our legal assistance improves opportunities – and lives – for so many in our community.”

More information on the Clean Slate Pathway can be found here.

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