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'If we just help one person': Free workshops for restoring voting rights

A Huntsville law firm will host four workshops for people who need help getting records expunged and voting rights restored.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Thousands of people convicted of low-level crimes in Madison County now have a second chance at life thanks to The Redeemer Act passed last year.

However, some may not know where to start. It’s where a record expungement clinic comes in. 

FOX54 News Keneisha Deas spoke with Managing Attorney of Beach Law Practice, Raven Perry-Beach in Huntsville.

“We have people come in on a quarterly basis, we host these clinics and we sit down and review their criminal record,” said Perry-Beach.

Perry-Beach says she started a clinic a month before knowing the Redeemer Act would be passed in 2021. 

So far, she says her practice has since opened more than fifty files. “Certain criminal records can apply to have their slates clean, so it makes it easier for people who have any type of record to just get a new lease on life,” said Perry-Beach.

Perry-Beach says her passion for helping people get a second chance, didn’t start there. “The brainchild of the expungement clinic actually began in Walker County.”

It goes back to October of 2019.

“A friend of mine from high school has posted a picture and said, ‘Hey! I went to vote today and someone commented and well, I wasn’t able to…so I responded and said, ‘What if I was able to put together some sort of clinic, to come down there because this is not an only expungement, but it’s also restoration of voting rights,” said Perry-Beach.

Perry-Beach worked with a member of a current partnering agency, the Madison County Volunteer Lawyers Program, and encourages people to take the step forward.  

“The director, Nicole Schroer said you know what, if we just help one person, we’ve made a difference and that person actually came back to me, with a success story and was so excited, and was so grateful for this new lease on life, and so I knew I had to continue from then.”

Perry-Beach says how long it takes to clear your record depends on the individual, it could take six weeks to two months.

The Alabama New South Coalition of Madison County President Michelle Watkins, a partnering group, said the free service is needed.

"We are encouraging anyone that has a record, whether you think that could be clear or not, to come out because what you don't know could hurt you, because you could actually get your rights restored, and actually I think it's so important for us in the community to make sure that we're trying to help individuals you know, put themselves in a better predicament so they could do better."

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If you or someone you know needs help expunging their record or getting their voting rights restored, a Huntsville Law Firm is hosting four workshops that could help.

Beach Law Practice announced four dates for their Expungement and Voting Rights Restoration Workshop. The Clinic will be held in partnership with the Madison County Volunteer Lawyers Program, Alabama New South Coalition, and Alabama Non-Violet Offenders Organization. 

Madison County Commissioner Violet Edwards hosts the workshops in the District Six Community Room located at 3210 Hi-Lo Circle S Huntsville, AL 35811 on:

March 21, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

June 13, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. 

September 12, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. 

December 12, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. 

Beach Law says that counsel, advice, and/or limited scope representation will be provided to clients for completing expungement and voting rights restoration documents, including the recent changes under the new REDEEMER Act

This workshop will be performed free of charge to those seeking expungement of their records as well as restoration of voting rights.


RELATED: 'REDEEMER Act' helps expunge low level crimes for Alabamians

A senate bill aimed at expunging low level crimes could help thousands of people in Madison County. SB117, or the "REDEEMER Act" was passed and signed off by Governor Kay Ivey during 'Second Chance Month' proclaimed by President Joe Biden.

This bill expands the expungement law, which would clear non-violent misdemeanor convictions. This includes traffic law violations to a marijuana charge. This law can also waive filing fees, which it didn't before.

"The REDEEMER Act waives that. It allows it to follow through the affidavit hardship. So for most people who are sitting near the poverty level, we're going to be able to get them an expungement for free," says Legal Services Alabama Managing Attorney, Holly Ray.

Ray says this helps people have a second chance at life. "There's so many people that have misdemeanors on their record that stopped them from being able to get a good job, or stopped them from being able to progress in their employment," says Ray.

However, Ray says this bill isn't "perfect." There are still some "quirks" to address. 

"You can probably go back and find a local story of a guy who had an iron-clad alibi but was accused of murder. Well, that's a violent crime so he still can't expunge. The system doesn't fix that," she says.

The law goes into effect in July, so people can't file yet. Ray says there are steps people can take before it does go into effect. A fingerprint card is required through ALEA, and because of COVID-19 restrictions, it's been tough to get a fingerprint card in person.

Here's what Ray suggests: 

"I've told people to go ahead and start getting that ALEA fingerprint card. It's on ALEA's website, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Their whole expungement toolkit is on their website, too," she says.

RELATED: Alabama House passes “Zuckerbucks” bill prohibiting private funding of elections

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