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Clearing the record through expungement

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TOWSON, MD — Rishawn White doesn’t view her position as the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ expungement manager to be a job as much as a ministry.

White and her colleagues at the Criminal Justice Information System-Central Repository in Reisterstown work to ensure that the process for removing criminal histories has become more respected and efficient for petitioners when they are having their criminal records removed, a duty critical for those seeking jobs, public housing, security clearances or federal benefits.

Expungements in the state have more than doubled over the last 10 years from 16,677 to 36,412 annually.

“It’s being able to change people’s lives,” said White, who has been working with expungements for 11 years. “It’s like a ball of yarn you help to untangle.”

Those who can apply for expungements include people found not guilty, those whose case was dismissed, those who were not prosecuted, cases indefinitely postponed, known as STET, and those with Probation Before Judgment. People with Released Without Charge cases prior to October 1, 2007, can also apply. Those cases now have their information automatically removed.

White recently visited the Westside Men’s Shelter in Catonsville to help explain the process to those who still have a criminal history that can be potentially removed from their records.

She has had several requests for specific educational outreaches that she has honored and continues to aid local organizations and indigent populations on the process.

“A lot of people still don’t understand the legality of the process,” White said. “I hold workshops as a courtesy or outreach because people simply don’t know. The public thinks their criminal record is like having bad credit and that their criminal history will drop off after a certain amount of time but that’s not the way it works.”

The office has partnered with the courts to produce a more detailed booklet explaining the process. In addition, they link with other law enforcement and legal partners such as arresting agencies, state’s attorneys, judges, and now non-profit organizations that assist with expungements, Director Carole Shelton said.

Shelton also noted that the department partners with the Maryland Judiciary to host an education seminar every two years with all statewide criminal justice stakeholders in an effort to ensure customer delivery excellence around the full expungement process.

“The thing is to get the word out that we’re here to help,” White said. “We do want to show we have a compassionate side. I find it to be a joy that you can help someone to get one step closer to being exonerated.”

Story ideas? Contact Gerard Shields at gerard.shields@maryland.gov  or call 410-339-5834.


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