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National Expungement Week

News Article
This week, the City of Portland presented a proclamation declaring the National Expungement Week. Civic Life spoke with the non-profit Rosewood Initiative to learn how they are helping Portlanders expunge records and court fees.

The Rosewood Initiative is a nonprofit organization that has been supporting neighbor-led strategies since they opened their doors in 2009. Their building doubles as their administrative office and a place for community to gather. Over 14,000 live in Rosewood which spans two cities, three school districts and five neighborhood associations—and is one of the most diverse areas in the State of Oregon.

“Our community is not only diverse, but it is strong, resilient, and talented, said Rosewood Initiative Communications Director Jossie de la Garza. “But some have previously experienced racial injustices and are weighed down with former arrest and convictions on their records—some dating back when they were teenagers. These records are still affecting them as adults and parents, and can prevent them from employment, housing and more. In addition, some are burdened with very large fines and fees with Multnomah County Circuit Court.”

In 2017 the Rosewood Initiative began partnering with Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, Metropolitan Public Defender, Multnomah County Circuit Court staff to promote Legal Services Day.

This free service is an opportunity for community members that have outstanding court fees and/or previous records to get support from public defenders and judges. During Legal Services Day, people can find out if they are eligible for expungement as well as exchange completed community service for fines and fees relief (due to COVID, the program has put a temporary hold on requiring community service hours).

Legal Service Day has tremendous interest from the community, with hundreds of people showing up to each event. To improve the process and make it more accessible, Multnomah County decided to make it a monthly event. Every month, 60 qualifying individuals are randomly selected to have their Multnomah County fines and fees waived. To get into the pool, individuals must fill out a form on Rosewood’s website and fall 200% below the federal poverty level or receive government benefits. “Rosewood Initiative works to impact the social determinants of our community’s health- including community wellness, economic opportunity, and transportation,” said de la Garza. “Offering free legal services to our community is a way to positively impact and uplift our community.”

Due to COVID, Legal Service Day is operating online. Find out more about Legal Services Day or call the Legal Service Day Hotline at 503-273-8224.

You can watch the City of Portland's proclamation for National Expungement Week here.