This summer, three Miami Law students successfully assisted in sealing and expunging the criminal records of 15 local citizens during a Redemption Workshop held at Lillie C. Evans K-8 Center near little Haiti in Miami. The participants who benefitted (which totaled about 30 percent of the attendees) were able to get a second lease on life. The workshop, which was put on by the Miami office of the Public Defender and organized by Sophia Montenegro, Community Liaison at the Miami Dade Public Defenders Office (PD-11), focused on restoring civil rights to reformed citizens.
"A criminal record is an employment barrier," said Carlos Martinez, founder of the Public Defender's Redemption Project. "Most who are arrested do not re-offend. Yet, their criminal record follows them, sometimes for life, despite decades of law-abiding behavior."
Martinez explains these citizens are shunned and often times not granted licenses by employers, landlords and administrative agencies.
With opportunities such as the Redemption Workshop, which is open to the public and free of charge, Martinez and others who assist in the effort hope to eliminate barriers to employment for citizens who have demonstrated law-abiding behavior.
It was also a great learning experience for Miami Law students Fernando Wytrykusz and Josh Boykin who worked closely with Miami Law alumna Sarah Wood Borak, JD '05, an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at PD-11.
"I'm grateful and humbled by the assistance that UM and other community partners have provided the Public Defender's office and its clients to make the Redemption Workshops a success," said Martinez.