"Clean Slate Clinic"
In just a few hours, you can help to drastically change someone’s life for the better.
Like most people, I hope that my life will have meaning and that I will positively impact those around me. In short, I want to make a difference and I seek out opportunities to do so. I am compelled to write about a recent experience where I did a small task that made a huge difference in someone else’s life. Two weeks ago, I volunteered for the second time at the San Diego Clean Slate Clinic. The Clinic is held once a month, staffed by volunteer attorneys, law students, and members of the community. Training is provided, so no experience is needed. The Clinic provides free legal information, NOT legal advice, to help individuals reduce or expunge their criminal records. Although the law makes provision for this, the process is complex and confusing, and most people seek help from the Clinic. In recent months, they have had nearly 50 participants in a given day.
At last month’s clinic, I worked with a woman who was a mother of three. She had a felony conviction that was preventing her from getting employment, housing for her family, credit, and education. Although I cannot discuss the specifics of her matter, I can tell you that the facts that lead to her conviction (for which she pled guilty acknowledging her wrongs) would leave you shaking your head, and I know that you would be in awe of the wonderful and giving woman that she is. It is clear that she is not a “criminal,” but a person who committed a crime and she deserves a “clean slate.”
In a few hours, we assisted her in the preparation of court forms and a declaration to have her felony reduced to a misdemeanor, and then to have the misdemeanor expunged. We made the copies she needed, gave her an instruction sheet on where to go, confirmed she understood what she would need to do to file the petitions, and sent her on her way to change her life. Throughout the hours we were together, she repeatedly thanked us for being at the clinic, for giving of our time and ourselves, and for helping her to get back on the path to achieving all that she wanted to in her life. I assured her that it was truly my pleasure to be there with her.
I left the clinic feeling elated that I could make a difference in one person’s life, but I began to wonder how many people the Clinic could help if they had more volunteers. I learned that the Clean Slate Clinic has had to turn away 10-15 participants each month over in the past few months, simply because they did not have enough volunteers to assist them. It shocks and saddens me that something can be done to help people and the only thing standing in the way is not enough people to do it.
The Clinic’s co-founder, Keiara Auzenne, told me that they could easily scale up the Clinic to serve more participants if they could count on a specific number of regular volunteers each month. Therefore, I encourage—and implore—you to sign up and join me at the next Clinic on November 5, 2016, just after Pro Bono Week
(October 23-29), and/or to commit to volunteering at the Clinic on a regular basis.
Together we can make an exponentially greater difference in the lives of so many people!
Kristen Fritz wrote this on behalf of the Lawyers Club Community Outreach Committee and hopes you are inspired by Pro Bono Week.