National Expungement Week 2020 (NEW) will take place from September 19th through the 26th with events planned in at least 16 cities from coast to coast all aimed at providing education and solutions regarding the expungement of past crimes from one’s record.
Founded in 2018 by LaTorrie Marshall of We B.A.K.E.D. and her colleague Adam Vine of Cage-Free Repair, NEW doubled the size of its list of events between 2018 and 2019, and had high hopes for a 50-state movement in 2020 but then… well… ya know… 2020 happened.
Regardless of how backward this year has felt, there is still much work to be done when it comes to criminal justice reform in this country and it cannot wait.
With a focus on communities that have been impacted the most by the failed War on Drugs and the racial disparity in both arrests and incarcerations that have come along with it, National Expungement Week seeks to give a voice to the voiceless and empower people to take control of their future by wiping clean their past.
Although National Expungement Week does not focus solely on clearing criminal records of past cannabis-related crimes, the undeniable momentum of the cannabis reform movement in this country has provided the perfect example of how our criminal justice system has been pressing down on the scales of justice for far too long.
Some might consider our system to be a failure or broken. But when it continues to lock people up over a plant to this day, even as past politicians and celebrities (and states, and the IRS!) are legally selling that same plant in taxed and regulated markets, you do not have to be a conspiracy theorist to consider that perhaps the fact that cannabis arrests have gone UP for the past three years is not a flaw in the system, but a feature. Sort of like the baked-in racism.
According to a 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.”
The report continues, “In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost ten times more likely to be arrested. In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”
This is unacceptable, as is the fact that roughly 40,000 Americans are currently serving time behind bars based on cannabis charges. Many of them for “crimes” in the past that would get you your own parking spot and the cubicle near the window if you brokered them in today’s legal markets.
NATIONAL EXPUNGEMENT WEEK – BY THE NUMBERS
According to their website, roughly 77 million Americans have a criminal record and a significant number of them could be eligible for free legal relief and a clean criminal record without even knowing it.
Apparently, only 4-6% of those eligible for these services apply for them. Even those who know about expungement may fear that it is costly or confusing and, historically, they’d be right, but thanks to efforts like National Expungement Week and Code For America, it has never been easier to re-balance those scales a bit.
Last year’s National Expungement Week saw 427 volunteers put on 40 events in 30 different cities with over 3,300 people showing up looking to clear their name and their record.
750 of those who attended were able to receive free legal help to clear or reduce their court fines and fees.
652 more received assistance in expunging and/or sealing their past crimes from their once “permanent” records.
In all, 3,069 people received beneficial services of some sort, and that is because the minds behind National Expungement Week know that fighting back against inequality ideally begins before a life entwined in the criminal justice system.
By offering what they refer to as Wrap-Around Services, event organizers working with NEW can provide some or all of the following services for those who need them the most, in an effort to break the vicious cycle that the system uses to entrap too many people.
- Housing / Rent Assistance
- Immigration Advice
- DACA Assistance
- Job Opportunities
- Health Screenings
- Voter Registration
- Enrollment in Public Benefits programs
… and more!
The services offered vary by city and event, but the free legal advice provided at National Expungement Week events nationwide has proven itself to be priceless for thousands of Americans who are tired of having potential employment, education, housing, or even dating opportunities spoiled by past low-level cannabis crimes popping up on background checks.
There are some 48,000+ legal barriers to those most basic rights for the millions of people in this country with a criminal record. This does not jive with a system allegedly meant to rehabilitate and successfully reintroduce people into society.
“The System” isn’t broken… but it needs to be.
Only then can it be fixed.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
You can find a full schedule for this year’s National Expungement Week events – in person and online – at our Events Calendar at BeardBrosPharms.com
For information about how to volunteer or organize an expungement event in your hometown, more resources can be found on the NEW website.
The movement is also taking donations from businesses and individuals HERE
Since we know that cannabis continues to be considered low-hanging fruit for lazy law enforcement nationwide, we must also continue to push for comprehensive cannabis reform. We cannot settle for decriminalization, as appealing as it sounds. Not while corporations are profiting from the same plant that still jeopardizes the freedoms of millions of Americans.
Useful public education.
Access to healthy food.
All of this combats crime before it begins.
Pick a cause and fight, the movement needs you.