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Iowa Legal Aid, Linn County to host clinic for expungement and employment barriers

Application deadline is July 19

The door to the Iowa Legal Aid office in downtown Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)
The door to the Iowa Legal Aid office in downtown Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A clinic aimed at helping Linn County residents who have been in the criminal justice system overcome barriers they may face is planned for July 27.

The Expungement and Employment Barriers Resource Clinic, hosted by Iowa Legal Aid and the Linn County Board of Supervisors, will be held at the Linn County Community Services Building, 1240 26th Ave. Court SW. Appointments are required.

Iowa Legal Aid staff will provide legal help for clients on expungement, court debt, driver’s licenses and vehicle registration. Other agencies will offer information on housing, financial planning and voting rights.

“Our mission is to help low-income people who have barriers to employment and housing, and this aligns perfectly with that mission,” said Rob Poggenklass of Iowa Legal Aid.

“We help people who have been involved in the criminal system at some points in their lives, and that criminal involvement has created barriers either in the form of criminal records that we might be able to expunge or court debt.”

The effort in Linn County is spearheaded by Supervisor Stacey Walker and was spurred by the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force report, according to a media release from the county. The SET Task Force is a joint effort by the city of Cedar Rapids, the county and the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

“We will help residents improve their own lives, remove barriers to employment and allow people to fully participate in society,” Walker said in the release.

“This, in turn, helps our local economy by providing employers with access to individuals who are ready and willing to work.

“Our goal is to help end the cycle of unemployment and homelessness.”

Iowa Legal Aid has held 23 clinics in the last two years, Poggenklass said. Last year, more than 100 people attended the Linn County clinic, making it the largest expungement clinic in Iowa, the news release said.

The application deadline is 5 p.m. July 19. Potential clients can call Iowa Legal Aid at (515) 243-1193, Ext. 1632, or find an application link on the county’s website, linncounty.org.

“A lot of the people that we help, they have really old criminal records or their entire record is traffic tickets or they’ve got misdemeanors. So there are a lot of people who could really benefit,” Poggenklass said.

Transportation help is available to clients if needed.

Poggenklass said one of the most common issues staffers work on during clinics is getting driver’s licenses back for their clients. Something such as a speeding ticket can quickly “snowball out of control” into a license suspension if someone doesn’t have a job or otherwise can’t afford to pay it, he said.

“I don’t know if we can ever truly level the playing field, but that is the goal,” Poggenklass said.

“We’re trying to make it possible for people to dig out after they’ve been through the criminal system, helping them get rid of records that might be preventing them from getting a job or an apartment and helping them to be able to get back and forth to work in their cars.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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