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Opinion

Md. should clear arrest records [Letter]

Kudos to David L. Warnock and William H. Murphy Jr. for their commentary, "No conviction? Erase the record" (Aug. 13), which presented the issue of the barriers facing people who are trying to remove records of non-convictions from public view for the purpose of gaining employment.

As an attorney at the Homeless Persons Representation Project, I'd like to add that a successful expungement can positively affect the lives of the most vulnerable citizens of Maryland — our neighbors who are homeless. HPRP has offered free legal representation to persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in expungement matters since 2002, and we know first-hand the difference expungement can make.

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During the height of the recession that began in 2008, HPRP conducted a survey of homeless and low-income clients who were unemployed and had applied for expungement with the help of HPRP volunteer attorneys. After six months of having their records cleared, even during a period of high unemployment in the state, nearly 50 percent of the respondents found jobs — giving them the incomes and stability to find permanent and safe housing. "I was able to get a job because of my record being cleared," said one client. "HPRP saved my life."

While we strive to have this impact in every client's life, we would far prefer that Maryland become an automatic expungement state. Most expungements in Maryland are by right for which the law does not permit judicial discretion. As a result, these expungements certainly could be handled automatically. Indeed, there is precedent for automatic expungement as Maryland automatically clears records of arrests that do not result in charges.

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Automatic expungement would make dramatic differences in the lives of our clients who are simply trying to make ends meet and move back into safe, affordable housing.

Michael Stone, Baltimore

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.


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