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Hundreds of Genesee County residents get help expunging their criminal records

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - For hundreds of Genesee County residents, a chance for a new beginning happened Wednesday outside of the Genesee County Jail.

They took part in the first Expungement Fair made possible after the passage of Michigan’s Clean Slate legislation. The new expungement law took effect in April, giving someone with a felony or two misdemeanor convictions a chance to wipe their criminal record clean.

Nearly 1,000 people registered for Wednesday’s expungement fair, ready for a fresh start.

“It’s huge for a lot of people -- not just for myself -- if they can get these felonies expunged,” said Gerald Dawson, who was first in line for assistance around 7 a.m.

He’s hoping for a second chance.

“I got a few felonies. They are almost 30 years old and it’s prohibiting me from getting a good job,” Dawson said. “I’m bouncing around from this temp agency to that temp agency.”

With help from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, those with misdemeanor marijuana and some felony convictions are eligible for expungement. Genesee County hosting the first expungement fair in the state and Attorney General Dana Nessel plans to schedule others around the state later this summer.

“There’s a 60-day period that the prosecutor has an opportunity to object to those,” Nessel said. “He has waived those 60 days, which means we are going to be passing out pre-processed expungements. They are already done and we are going to be able to do that for dozens and dozens of people.”

Dawson, who met with a lawyer at the fair, is ready to wipe the slate clean after three decades.

“It’s a long time. You think after that amount of time, I’m like OK, I did what I did. I did my time and I’m out -- been out five or six years now been working, no trouble or nothing, and I think people should have second shot,” he said.

Dozens of attorneys volunteered their time to help people in Genesee County get a second chance.

“We always see a lot of time on the criminal defense side, people at their worst and facing some crazy consequences sometimes,” said Cameron Bell, who drove up to Genesee County from his law office in Troy.

He volunteered his time and expertise in criminal law to help change the life of his fellow Michiganders.

“For myself to be an attorney -- a Black attorney -- and to see all of my people trying to get this stuff taken care of, to me it’s the least I can do,” Bell said.

Kemia Abdul-Matin was first to visit Bell’s table Wednesday morning to clear up a felony and a misdemeanor from her record. However, Bell found that her charge apparently had been reduced already, so Abdul-Matin left the event with her record expunged.

“I’m so happy right now. It really means a lot,” she said. “I was trying to get it off, but knowing that it’s not even on there or not as bad as I thought it was, I’m excited.”

A Mid-Michigan company also was at the event Wednesday offering jobs to people with expunged records. WGS Global Services has been hiring Second Chance employees since 2008, so they’re very familiar with the programs and how to help them find success after prison.

WGS Global was hoping to hire 15 to 25 new employees through the event.

For anyone who couldn’t attend Wednesday’s expungement fair, click here for free advice on how to complete the process.

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