Commentary: Civil legal aid needed to help expunge criminal records, reduce poverty

An investment in civil legal aid will ultimately help to transform the social and economic landscape of Philadelphia.

Op-Ed (Pennsylvania)

Gaetan J. Alfano, Deborah R. Gross, Mary F. Platt
Philadelphia Inquirer
December 1, 2016

Tags: Criminal Justice, Criminal Records, Expungement / Record Sealing

Organizations mentioned/involved: Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia


While these pro bono efforts and reforms are extremely helpful, hundreds of thousands of people still need civil legal aid to clear their criminal records and deal with other legal issues that often plague people who are trying to escape the cycle of poverty. Some of these issues include securing housing and public benefits, accessing education, clearing up old court fines, correcting inaccurate credit ratings, obtaining driver’s licenses, and resolving family law problems.

Civil legal aid has a positive impact on economic development and helps to restore the lives of people with criminal records. People with a sealed or expunged criminal record have a better chance of securing housing and pursuing careers. Their families benefit from the opportunity for income increases, while other obstacles facing impoverished families are eliminated.