CARBONDALE — The Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, the NAACP Carbondale Branch and the Center for Empowerment and Justice are teaming up to help those with criminal backgrounds obtain a second chance.

The groups will host a free expungement and sealing clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 215 N. Washington St. The event will focus on expunging and sealing criminal histories for low-income people.

Roy Mazuchowski, communications chair for the NACCP Carbondale Branch, said the clinic could help individuals have a fresh start regardless of earlier mistakes made.

“It will help them get their lives restarted,” he said.

Individuals should bring identification, their case number, date of arrest, arresting law enforcement agency, charges brought and any paperwork relating to the cases they wish have expunged. If some of the documents are missing, work can still be done on the case, according to a news release from the NAACP.

“The lawyers will be using a program to look through the records, see what the records are like, and then help people file the appropriate paperwork to decide if they qualify for expungement or sealing of their records,” Mazuchowski said.

Expunging and sealing are two different things, according to NAACP Executive Committee Member Ed Dorsey.

Expunged records are physically destroyed or returned to the person. All mention of their name, the arrest and the case will be removed from public criminal records. The difference in sealing the criminal record is that the records are not destroyed, but the general public will usually not have access to them.

Dorsey said only law enforcement and some employers are able to see the records.

A news release from the NAACP says a person wanting to begin the process has to be at least three years removed from the offense and have not committed any additional misdemeanors or felonies.

Recent legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner has expanded offenses that can be expunged, but sex offenses, domestic battery, acts of animal cruelty, or driving under the influence cannot be expunged.

The clinic is open to anybody in the region Saturday and after starting the process, a Land of Lincoln attorney will help the participant through each step of the process.

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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