A criminal record can often prevent people from obtaining employment, secure housing, or qualifying for loans. But a clinic hosted by the Center for Arkansas Legal Services hopes to change that by helping low-income people seal criminal records for minor offenses. The clinic will take place Friday at Shorter College in North Little Rock.
"We are doing this because we think there is a big community need for it," says VISTA Affordable Housing Preservation Attorney, Kendall Lewellen. "There are a lot of people in central Arkansas and all over the state with old criminal records, especially old nonviolent offenses that get in the way of them getting stable jobs and housing or loans, things they need to get back on their feet."
Other legal aid programs across the country have been providing such clinics for a while according to Lewellen. There are also other similar clinics in Arkansas run by Legal Aid of Arkansas that help people seal their criminal records.
"We do think it is fair that these records are hidden," says Lewellen, "because the law allows people to hide them from public view after a certain amount of time. It isn't a trick, it's how the system is supposed to work and there are many more serious offenses people cannot seal like most violent crimes."
The Center for Arkansas Legal Services are partnering with Central Arkansas Workforce Development Area and recruiting pro bono attorneys says Lewellen. She estimates that there are generally 30-40 clients per clinic.
Lewellen would like potential clients to know it is better to call and schedule an appointment to better prepare them for the clinic. Contact the Legal Services' Helpline at 501-376-3423. Those interested can learn more by clicking here.