Jobseekers line up to have records expunged

Corey Williams
Associated Press

Detroit — Several hundred people lined up Saturday morning outside of a northwest Detroit church in hopes of getting nonviolent criminal convictions expunged from their records as part of a program designed to help prepare city residents for jobs.

More than 100 lawyers and law students have been recruited to represent eligible applicants in Detroit’s 36th District and Wayne County Circuit courts. In exchange, applicants agree to sign up with the city’s Workforce Development agency to assist in job readiness and placement.

The line for Project Clean Slate started forming at least two hours before the doors to Fellowship Chapel opened at 10 a.m., and Jarrell Holmes was one of the first to show up. The unemployed 28-year-old believes a 2012 fraud conviction may have cost him work.

“I hope to be able to move on from the past,” he said. “I just had one slip up.”

An estimated 70,000 Detroit residents are eligible to have parts of their records expunged, Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Hollowell said.

“Too often, folks who made a mistake in the past are unable to even get job interviews,” Hollowell said. “They want to work, but they can’t get started. This event will help them get their record clean and get into the job stream.”

Project Clean Slate, hosted by the city’s Law Department and an area nonprofit, is expected to be held on a quarterly basis at other locations across the city.

Hollowell said companies have told city officials there is a need for workers. Mayor Mike Duggan also has made creating jobs and training programs priorities for the city.

A program called Grow Detroit’s Young Talent is expected to meet its goal of offering 8,000 summer work opportunities for youth and young adults, and about 200 employers have committed to employ residents between 14 and 24, Duggan’s office said.

That program won’t help Kendrick Armstead, who at 39 is past the age requirement. He currently works through a temp agency. Once, Armstead was interviewing and his assault conviction came up, causing the interview to go south.

“The woman said she wanted to hire me, but she had to talk to her boss,” Armstead said while standing near the middle of the line Saturday. “She never called me back.”

Samuel James hobbled up to the line before someone brought him a wheelchair. The retired railroad switchman and brakeman doesn’t need a job, he just wants a concealed weapons permit — something he can’t get with drug convictions from more than 20 years ago still on his record.

Selling drugs “was a way for me to get extra money when I was younger,” said James, 70. “But that caused me a lot of problems. People make mistakes. My record tarnished me.”