MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If anyone knows the importance of being given another chance in life, after a life in and out of jail, it’s Calvin Sanford.
“I went to jail a lot of times, just to be honest with you, from my juvenile to my adult life just living in the streets of Memphis. Twenty-six times, actually,” Sanford said.
His life changed after his criminal record was expunged.
“I’m an example of this program works. I’m an example that people can change their life,” Sanford said. “My record being expunged was the best lift off my shoulder. It was the best thing that ever happened in my life to be honest with you.”
Like many who’ve served time behind bars, there can be many roadblocks in putting a criminal past behind them.
“The best second chance I ever got was getting a clean record, being able to get a good job. I got two, going on three, degrees,” he said. “I was already a good guy, smart. I was just caught in the system.”
It’s a system that Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk Heidi Kuhn is hoping to change by waiving the expungement fee.
“One of the changes we have made is, we are the only criminal court office in the state of Tennessee that has waived the $100 fee for an expungement,” Kuhn said.
This Saturday the Criminal Clerk’s office will be holding what’s called an expungement clinic and taking it to the community at Hope Church in Cordova. Here is more information.
She said the office has assisted in the expungement of 3,000 people since she took office.
Just City is a non-profit criminal justice reform advocacy group in Memphis that’s helped hundreds clear their records since 2015.
Josh Spickler, Just City’s executive director, worked with state lawmakers to pass legislation to no long require a mandatory expungement fee.
“A criminal history can keep people from all sorts of progress in their lives, and putting a price tag like that is just a bad policy. So, we worked for the past six years to reduce or eliminate that fee,” Spickler said.