Vanessa James

Vanessa James

One of the biggest barriers to re-entry to society for those convicted of felonies or even misdemeanors is the existence of a criminal record.

While more companies have been coming around to the idea of giving some folks a second chance, it’s still far harder to find a job that provides a living wage for those individuals not only with convictions, but simply charges, even if they’ve been dismissed.

However, for those having difficulty finding work, there are options, including expungement. Last week, Vanessa James, a regional re-entry specialist for the NC Department of Commerce hosted an informational session in Haywood for those interested in clearing their records in an effort to find better employment.

James said there are many barriers to reentry for folks with criminal records of any kind.

“There’s the judgment of potential employers and coworkers, and then it’s also tougher to get an ID, housing, transportation and healthcare,” she said. “All those things factor in.”

The filing fee to get a charge expunged is $175, and a successful expungement means no one can see the details — or even the fact that there was a charge — except for the district attorney.

Five people showed up to hear their options for clearing their record and/or finding better employment. While some people with certain classes of convictions were told they wouldn’t be able to have their record expunged, there were still other options, including a certificate of relief.

“A person may obtain a certificate of relief if he or she has three or fewer prior Class H or I felony convictions as well as any prior misdemeanor convictions,” reads an article on the UNC School of Government website.

“Through the Uniform Act, the Uniform Law Commission recommended that states allow people who have been convicted of a crime to apply for relief from collateral consequences that could impede their reintegration into society,” the article also reads.

And thanks to a new North Carolina law, anyone who is issued new criminal charges after December of 2021 will be automatically have that charge expunged from their record if they are not convicted.

Career center manager Lisa Morris said those who did not attend the session but are still interested in expunging their record or seeking employment can stop by the Haywood County NC Works Career Center at 1170 N Main St. in Waynesville.

“Just because someone can’t make it today, doesn’t mean we still can’t help them,” she said. “Come on in.”

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