116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Formerly incarcerated people can meet with a lawyer Saturday at a clinic in Cedar Rapids to get information about clearing their records, as well as find other resources, like job opportunities and help reinstating their voting rights.
The event is being planned by IowaWorks, Advocates for Social Justice and Iowa Legal Aid, and it will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at IowaWorks, on the bottom floor of Lindale Mall.
Iowa Legal Aid has held previous expungement clinics and IowaWorks has done second-chance job fairs before, but this is the first time all of these resources are being brought together at the same time in Linn County, according to Curt Wheeler, a career planner at IowaWorks.
“It's different because we're rolling them all into one day, one event, over the same time. Rather than having the expungement clinic at one time, and the job fair at another, we're putting them both together and we're doing the resource fair, expanding upon that, so that hopefully individuals can come on that day and get all the assistance they need,” Wheeler said.
The expungement clinic is by appointment only. All the slots for this Saturday are already filled, but people still are being encouraged to register because lawyers with Iowa Legal Aid may be able to help them at a future date.
During the clinic there will be time for 75 people to meet with attorneys to talk about expungement, but Abigail Cobb from Iowa Legal Aid said more than 100 people have already registered.
Iowa Legal Aid is planning on another expungement clinic later this year, but the date for that clinic is not yet decided.
“I think it’s worth nothing that that’s not even the biggest clinic that we’ve done in Cedar Rapids,” Cobb said. “For some context, generally our clinics have somewhere between 25 and 50 participants. In Cedar Rapids the largest that we’ve hosted had about 150 clients. They’re always really high volume and very successful clinics.”
This will be the first in-person clinic that Iowa Legal Aid has run since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization hosted some virtual clinics during the pandemic, but Alex Kornya of Iowa Legal Aid said the demographics of those who attend the virtual clinics are different than those who typically come to clinics in person.
“It was an interesting use of technology, and we’re going to continue to do remote clinics from time to time, largely to make sure that we’re fully serving rural areas, but we are excited to get back to our regularly scheduled clinics,” Kornya said.
While the scheduled expungement appointments are held, the job fair and resource fair also will be running and will be open to the public.
Resources will come from various groups, including Linn County Public Health, Waypoint Services, Cedar Rapids Economic Alliance and others.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters will be at the resource fair with information about reinstating voting rights after going through the court system, and what that process can look like.
Angelina Ramirez, who is organizing the resource fair with Advocates for Social Justice, had previously worked to plan an expungement clinic as an intern with the Linn County supervisors. She said attendees were given an exit survey at the 2019 clinic, and while most of the responses showed attendees appreciated the help with expungement, they also stated that they needed help with other things, including finding jobs, which is why Ramirez wanted to bring all those resources into one event.
“We figured by working so closely with IowaWorks, who already does this type of work of connecting people with employment, we can make this a one-stop shop,” Ramirez said. “There are so many obstacles that present themselves, everything from food, to housing, to health care, education and having a record attached to you everywhere you go. Some of those obstacles are not necessarily completely eradicated, but they’re eased. We can help (previously incarcerated people) by connecting them with resources that might be able to make that process a little bit easier and make it easier to be successful in Linn County.”
Comments: (319) 398-8328; email@example.com