TULSA — Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma or LASO has introduced a new, online program to help people expunge criminal records, if they meet the legal requirements. This new technological innovation helps users understand their criminal backgrounds and work with pro bono attorneys to seal criminal records. This program is designed to improve the housing, education and employment opportunities for many low-income Oklahomans. This program is funded by Legal Services Corporation; Pro Bono Net is the technological partner.
Oklahomans are more likely to have a criminal record than citizens of other states. The National Institute of Corrections reported that in 2014 “Oklahoma has a rate about 79 percent higher than the national average of incarcerated (in prison) adults per 100,000 people.”
LASO has observed that many Oklahomans with criminal records have trouble finding a job, experience difficultly obtaining housing, and find their records to be a barrier to accessing education. That is, long after criminal records have been addressed by the legal system, they continue to exact a financial punishment on those who have served their time.
LASO, together with Pro Bono Net (probono.net), has developed online technologies to guide Oklahomans with criminal records through the expungement process. Users can prepare legal documents and connect with pro bono attorneys through a secure online portal. This limited scope legal service has the potential to help more Oklahomans, particularly in rural areas, have access to expungement.
“This project has helped Legal Aid understand the depth of problems facing Oklahomans with criminal history records. Legal Aid is grateful to the many volunteer lawyers who are participating with us to help people expunge old criminal records,” said Margaret Shinn, community education and pro se coordinator, LASO.
Expungement seekers can visit Legal Aid’s website (oklaw.org) to access the online expungement program. This program uses guided imagery to help Oklahomans understand the context of their criminal record and the process of expunging it. LASO’s expungement project, supported by the Legal Services Corporation, is designed to help those who have put their legal problems behind them to fully reengage in society in ways that are meaningful and productive.
“The barriers to coming back into society are so many, so devastating, and can last for so long. Also the legal expertise and services for expungements are very limited, so it was great to work on this project with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma,” said Claudia Johnson, law help interactive program manager, Pro Bono Net.
For more information contact Shinn at 918-295-9439 or Margaret.Hamlett@laok.org.