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August 27, 2014

Expungement gets a hearing in General Assembly


A joint legislative committee held a public hearing on possible changes in state law regarding expungement of criminal records, and our own Pat Littlejohn was one of the voices heard. From The State:

The most divergent points of view were offered by longtime victims' rights advocate Laura Hudson, whose statements contrasted with those by Patricia Littlejohn, executive director of the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families.

"Don't forget the victims," Hudson told panel members, saying she opposes expanding the state's current expungement law any further. Then, speaking of criminals, she quoted the Bible, saying, "By their fruits you shall know them."

Asked by Allen if she believed in rehabilitation, Hudson said, "That's a theological question."

Littlejohn, speaking for ex-convicts who are trying to go straight and provide support for their families, said, "Many want to provide for their children but can't because of their inability to gain employment. Having a criminal record is a major barrier."...

Pat stressed that record expungement is overly complex and difficult for the poor to obtain. Aside from the $300 fee, well out of reach for many fathers in the Center's programs, expungement law is scattered in bits and pieces through different parts of state code.

That's why the Center created its Expungement Guide last year. Chelsea Clark, who as a law clerk for the Center was instrumental in creating the Guide, also testified at the hearing, telling lawmakers there is still a need to streamline the law and make expungement more accessible.

Pat stressed that not everyone should be eligible for expungement, but that it should be accessible under the right circumstances, and when the person in question poses no danger to society.

On the whole, expungement as a concept got a more favorable reception than might have been expected. Another hearing was scheduled for Sept. 9.

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