Forgiving vs. Forgetting

Eli Hager details civil legal aid's involvement in overcoming barriers for people with a criminal record.

News Story (Illinois, NATIONAL, New York, North Carolina)

Eli Hager
Marshall Project
March 17, 2015
Link to story

Tags: Courts, Expungement / Record Sealing, Prisoners Rights

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), Cabrini Green Legal Aid (Chicago) (CGLA), North Carolina Justice Center (NCJC)


The granting of so-called Certificates of Rehabilitation has become an increasingly popular compromise version of full expungement in courts around the country. Between 2009 and 2014, nine states and Washington, D.C. began issuing the documents, also called certificates of relief, recovery, achievement, or employability.

“These certificates are a remarkably dynamic new option,” says Kari Hamel, a civil legal aid attorney in North Carolina who is working to make the certificates – available in that state since 2011 – more accessible to more people with criminal records.

“It’s a way of showing employers that the crime someone committed probably wasn’t committed yesterday. It makes what has happened since the crime a fully official part of that person’s record, for all employers to see.”

“That’s the key,” she adds. “Rehabilitation is absolutely a part of a person’s history of trouble with the law, it’s just the second part, the positive part.”