SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – People with criminal records are often discriminated against in the job and housing markets. On Friday, Savannah attorneys will host a clinic that could possibly change their lives for the better.
“Having a criminal record can really be a black mark on people. It can really follow them for the rest of their lives. So clearing their criminal record is just amazing work to do,” said Nancy Devetter, a supervising attorney at Georgia Legal Services.
Devetter says she has been working on hosting an expungement clinic with the District Attorney’s office for years. And on Friday, her efforts are becoming a reality at the Chatham County Courthouse.
Anyone who was arrested or who has a criminal record in Chatham County can stop by to get a record expunged within the parameters put forth by Georgia law. Devetter says the law limited. Most likely, people can have their records restricted so that housing providers and employers do not see it.
“Most people don’t think about people with criminal records as having stories or reasons why they did things,” said Devetter. “They just think they are people who made bad decisions. And there are people who made bad decisions, but sometimes there are other factors involved.”
Devetter says the south, especially, is notorious for incarcerating large percentages of its population, which results in a high number of people having criminal records.
According to the Georgia Justice Center, 4.2 million Georgians have criminal records. Devetter says the system punishes people even after they have served their time.
“It can be minor, it can be major. It really is a fact-based circumstance,” said Devetter who hopes Friday’s clinic will help the community tackle those circumstantial problems.
District Attorney Meg Heap and a Chatham County judge will pull criminal records, go over details and — if needed — file a motion with a judge.
Devetter says many people do not even know what their criminal record is because of confusion during the process or because it happened so long ago.
The clinic is happening on Friday, February 6 at the Chatham County Courthouse. The clinic is free to anyone who brings and ID, which will help attorneys pull records from the system.
The event is first come first served. An appointment is not necessary.