SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A nationwide effort to help give people a second chance is making its way to western Massachusetts.
This is the third year that volunteers with National Expungement Week will help those with past criminal records get back on the right track.
There will be a virtual event for those in western Massachusetts happening on Wednesday.
This opportunity is for those in the area who want to learn more about their rights when it comes to expunging and sealing past criminal records.
“Every male that I can think of in my life has had some kind of interaction with law-enforcement,” said Jennifer Gaskin, whose husband had his CORI record sealed.
Gaskin said husband Daniel spent time in jail years ago for crimes from his younger years.
“As a teenager, you’re finding your way and being rebellious,” Gaskin added.
She said Daniel served his time and tried to get back on track, but found his mistakes of the past were following him into his 30s as he tried to find work.
“He was only able to get low-level, minimum wage positions due to the fact that he had a CORI,” Gaskin explained.
Criminal Offender Record Information - or CORI - tracks not only convictions, but also arraignments and past charges, even if those charges were dismissed.
A CORI report can be seen by prospective employers and landlords, meaning housing and job prospects can be limited.
“It perpetuates being in poverty,” said Karima Rizk, co-coordinator of National Expungement Week.
Rizk is running a virtual bilingual clinic on Wednesday to inform those in western Massachusetts of their rights when it comes to getting a record sealed or expunged.
“We’re offering both the pay fees to pull that record, so that eliminates the financial barriers, and if there’s any filing costs associated with getting that paperwork into the court, we also are going to take care of that,” Rizk added.
The waiting period for a record sealing is three years from a misdemeanor conviction and seven years from a felony.
If your charges were dismissed, however, Rizk noted, “You’re eligible to get your records sealed immediately.”
Jared Olanoff, a defense attorney, told Western Mass News that getting a record fully erased through expungement is rare.
“You have to have committed the offense before you turn 21 and even then, it’s only available for a very limited number of charges,” Olanoff explained.
However, he says CORI sealing is more common and hides the past charges from landlords and employers.
“It would just say on your CORI that this record has been sealed,” Olanoff noted.
It’s impossible to erase the past, but Gaskin spoke out at National Expungement Week events because of what happened to husband’s future after getting his CORI sealed.
“He’s been gainfully employed for the past seven or eight years at one employer, carried health insurance benefits for our entire family,” Gaskin said.
It’s a reparative form of justice that made Gaskin’s family life linear again, rather than a cycle of poverty or crime.
"It would give people the opportunity to be able to continue their lives and basically take advantage of the rehabilitation that’s supposed to be part of the correctional system," Gaskin said.
If you think you have a record that could get sealed or expunged, you can CLICK HERE to register for Wednesday’s clinic. It runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and while their focus is targeting western Massachusetts audiences, Rizk said anyone with charges that originate in the Bay State can join.