Op-Ed: National Expungement Week of Action in the DMV

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by Ray Dixon

National Expungement Week (N.E.W.) is a non-cannabis specific awareness movement that facilitates expungement relief and wrap-around services to communities affected by the War on Drugs. The American Bar Association describes “expungement” as “the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record.” An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant’s criminal record as well as, ideally, the public record.

Last year’s Week of Action featured over 40 events in 30 cities. Here in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area, we held a Record Sealing and Community Healing Conversation on September 25th, 2019 and a Record Sealing Clinic on September 28th, 2019. The Record Sealing and Community Healing Conversation included participation from Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie; Gwen Washington, Director of Pro Bono with Rising for Justice; Nkechi Taifa, convener of the Justice Roundtable; and medical cannabis patient and advocate Che Larracente.

The Record Sealing Clinic helped 40 people in total receive record-sealing advice and counsel. Legal aide was provided by five pro bono attorneys and 12 law student pro bono volunteers from Georgetown Law Center, the George Washington University School of Law and Catholic University. Additionally, ACLU was present and DC Office of Human Rights conducted at least three interviews of persons who had grievances due to discrimination based upon their criminal records. Project Empowerment DSLBD’s Aspire to Entrepreneurship were available to provide participants with career training programs and Board of Elections was present to register voters.

In 2020, National Expungement Week’s focus is providing year-round services and adapting to the need for health safety. This year’s Week of Action is happening now and the local organizing team has a number of activities planned for surrounding communities. The following is an itinerary of planned events for the DC / Maryland / Virginia area:

The Maryland Expungement Clinic will feature numerous services and happenings including a mental health advocate talk, a resume writing clinic (5:30PM), voter registration, know your rights education, free food for participants, law professionals from Maryland and DC, community wrap-around services, a meet the candidate station, and food/clothing donation drop-off. Additionally, the Maryland Expungement Clinic will include an Open Mic session with an appearance by Matt Capone, Creator of Trap Poetry.

The Washington, D.C. Sealing Clinic will feature resume writing, work readiness support, housing support, free food for participants, legal aid and financial support, law professionals from D.C., and voter registration. The entertainment itinerary will be as follows:

Sound Bowl Meditation by: I Am Goddess Coaching (3:30 p.m.); Healing Music by: Quibee (4:00 p.m.); Brandi Forte, Speaker (4:45 p.m.); Queen Afi’s Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags (a 5:15 p.m. private session); Dr. Lovail Long, Speaker (6:00 p.m.); and The Pop-Up Cypher (6:30 p.m.).

If you or someone you know in the DC / Maryland / Virginia area are in need of expungement/record-sealing advice, please fill out our intake form.

DMV Expungement Week is still seeking attorneys who can provide pro-bono record clearing services to individuals throughout the area. Additionally, we are seeking resources from firms and other organizations who can work with us across the country to locate and secure work sites/spaces to conduct remote and in-person events. Please contact us at dmv@nationalexpungementweek.org to help facilitate this needful work.

A complete list of DMV events for National Expungement Week is as follows:

  • 9/21: 3-8 p.m.. MARYLAND EXPUNGEMENT CLINIC, 7525 LANDOVER ROAD, HYATTSVILLE, MD 20785.

  • 9/22: 3-8 p.m. FREE BRAKE LIGHT REPAIR, 6417 MARLBORO PIKE, FORESTVILLE, MD 20747.

  • 9/24: 3-8 p.m. FREE BRAKE LIGHT REPAIR, 5117 FRANCONIA ROAD, ALEXANDRIA, VA 22301.

  • 9/25: 3-8 p.m. WASHINGTON, DC SEALING CLINIC, 1611 U STREET SE, WASHINGTON, DC 20020.

Ray Dixon is a National Expungement Week Local Organizer and the founder of The Ounce.

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