New program give felons a 2nd chance

City and law school team up to expunge records

AKRON, Ohio - If you have a criminal record, it can be very hard to find a job, especially if you've committed a felony. But, the University of Akron School of Law Criminal Expungement Program aims to give convicted felons a second chance.

The one-year pilot program will utilize 20 law students, trained on expungement law, who will meet with members of the Akron community who want to learn how to have their records sealed. The program was announced Wednesday at the university's Legal Clinic.

Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville said the city is providing $10,000 for an attorney to oversee the project.  There is no cost for eligible residents to consult with the law students.

Gloria Twitty, who was convicted of petty theft in 1978, said she learned how hard it was to find a job after she served six months in prison.

"When I got out, I had applied for some jobs and I couldn't get a job. I turned back to a life of crime. Being a criminal, at that time, was more appealing," Twitty said.

Sommerville and attorney Avivi Wilcher said that criminal cycle remains a big problem today.

"It's very difficult for them (convicted felons) to obtain employment," Wilcher said.

Wilcher said people convicted of first and second degree felonies and sex crimes are not eligible for expungement.  She also said people with more than one felony conviction, regardless of degree, would not be eligible.

"A felony conviction is eligible for expungement three years after the end of whatever sanctions were imposed.  For a misdemeanor case, they have to wait one year from their completion of their case," Wilcher said.

Sommerville singled out the high-profile case of Akron mother, Kelley Williams-Bolar, who was convicted by a jury for tampering with records for illegally enrolling her two girls into Copley-Fairlawn schools.

Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in the Summit County Jail, but was released on Wednesday after serving nine days. Williams-Bolar is studying to become a teacher, but her felony conviction could prevent her from getting a job in a classroom.

Sommerville met with Summit County prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh on Wednesday to ask why Williams-Bolar's case was prosecuted as a felony.

"We want her to explain to us, what was her rationale in the decisions that she made?"  Sommerville said at the news conference.

If you'd like to find out if you're eligible for the expungement program or to set up an appointment to meet with a law student, call the School of Law Legal Clinic at 330-972-7751.

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