JAC's Update and Statement on COVID-19 or Corona Virus Outbreaks in Louisiana.
Out of an abundance of caution and respect for Governor Edwards's and Mayor Cantrell's calls to curtail large gatherings and observe appropriate social distancing (limiting social or people to people interactions), we at the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana are rethinking how to best serve the public virtually. Please be sure to check this page for future virtual clinic events.
In March 2008 a group of incredible community activists crafted a day in which attorneys and advocates volunteered to provide expungements for the community. They created New Orleans’s first city wide “Expungement Day.” The doors were scheduled to open at 10, but the line outside the Tremé Center started to form at 7am. As quickly as they could, they opened early to start consulting with the hundreds of people who needed their records sealed. The organizers anticipated closing at 4, but were forced to close several hours earlier to stop the constant flow of participants. By the end of the day, over 400 people had filtered into and out of the Tremé Center and almost 100 volunteers were left weary. The event made a big impact, but also provided the foundation for understanding the need for expungement services for the working poor.
Through their attendance, the participants defined a growing population. It is a population that has experienced persistent and pervasive policing, has been touched by the criminal justice system by virtue of an arrest; are skilled and valuable members of the workforce, are without access to opportunity, and a population that is relentlessly looking for sustainable employment. 2008 marked the year when hundreds of people converged in a place with a singular goal: employment.
Expungement is a key component in breaking the cycle of recidivism for non-violent defendants. Expungement facilitates access to economic opportunity for thousands of Louisianans, including predominantly African Americans who face persistent unemployment and exclusion from social advancement after arrest. Here, an arrest creates a permanent criminal record even if no criminal charges are instituted. Approximately 92% of all employers rely on criminal background checks when making hiring decisions. However, when a person is simply arrested in Louisiana, there is a decreased likelihood of future employment exacerbated by the stigmatization of a being labeled as a “criminal.”
Here, an arrest creates a permanent criminal record even if no criminal charges are instituted. A permanent arrest record exists even if all charges are dismissed. Un-convicted defendants face substantial social and legal barriers in gaining or retaining employment (as do convicted defendants). Mass incarceration with its lingering stigmatization equates to a new “barrier-rich” Jim Crow system. Having a criminal record typically prevents a person from securing employment, enrolling in school and training programs, and securing affordable housing. Loss of housing frequently blocks an incarcerated person’s ability to fully reunite with family members after release. Yet, employment, training, and family housing are essential for successful disengagement from the criminal justice system.
This stigma of criminalization leads creates burdensome societal costs: an individual’s lost earnings, lower economic growth of the community/neighborhood, lower tax revenues for the city/state, and higher government spending on repeated incarcerations and other government expenses. Louisiana’s recidivism rate has now reached 50%. However, an expungement for nonviolent defendants removes the stigmatization of a criminal record, enhances an individual’s legitimate hope to find meaningful employment, and effective serve in the role of “citizen” in a democratic society. The bottom line is that those who receive an expungement are less likely to recidivate when afforded the opportunity of employment.
The Value of Expungements
Louisiana incarcerates more people than any other state the country and more people than anywhere else in the world. Even an arrest that the District Attorney declines to prosecute will create a criminal record. Criminal records are often the basis for denying employment, even if the job at hand is unrelated to a previous arrest. Expungements seal records of the accused, but does not destroy them. The value of expungements for people arrested is in their ability to find work afterwards based on a criminal history.
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Expungement How-To Guides
JAC has created several guides and checklists to assist individuals navigating the expungement system without an attorney. These resources are informational and are not legal advice. Always consult with an attorney about your particular situation. Special thanks to HERO-Farm for creating these materials.
EAST BATON ROUGE REGION
DOWNLOAD the East Baton Rouge Regional Edition How-To Booklet. Includes information for East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, and Iberville Parishes.
SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA REGION
DOWNLOAD the Southeast Regional Edition How-To Booklet. Includes information for St. Tammany/Washington, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes.
Also available: DOWNLOAD the Orleans Parish Edition How-To Booklet
SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA REGION
DOWNLOAD the Southwast Regional Edition How-To Booklet. Includes information for Acadia, Calcasieu, Lafayette and Vermilion Parishes.
NORTH/CENTRAL LOUISIANA REGION
DOWNLOAD the North/Central Regional Edition How-To Booklet. Includes information for Caddo, Morehouse, Ouachita, Rapides Parishes.
NORTHEAST LOUISIANA REGION
NEW! DOWNLOAD the Northeast Regional Edition How-To Booklet. Includes information for Caldwell, East Carroll, Franklin, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas, Union, and West Carroll Parishes.
NEW! Don't see your parish listed above? DOWNLOAD the Statewide Edition How-To Booklet. It includes general instructions on expungements and is relevant to any parish.
(Please note these forms are also available on the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association website.)
All expungements must include the following four (4) forms:
Some expungements may require that the conviction be set aside and the prosecution dismissed, which will require the following forms:
If you were arrested for a felony and convicted of a misdemeanor and you are currently on probation for your misdemeanor, you can request an expungement of your felony arrest only with the following forms. Please note that after you complete your probation, you will need to request a second expungement for your conviction.
If your offenses do not fit in the spaces provided in the Motion for Expungement with required additional forms, you will need to include a supplmental sheet behind page 2 of your expungement motion.
If you are eligible for a certificate waiving the $550, you should use the following form and submit it to the District Attorney. The District Attorney must consent to the fee waiver and you must include this completed consent form with your expungement paperwork.
JAC hosts events regularly. For more information, please take a look at our online calendar. Requests for events can also be sent to