LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A criminal record can make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a job.
But there may be a way to clean your record - if you meet the requirements of Calcasieu’s Fresh Start Initiative.
Calcasieu’s Fresh Start Initiative is considered a model program in the state, recognized as innovative in Louisiana and the nation.
It helps those who qualify to clean their record, at a price much less expensive than going through a private attorney.
District Attorney John DeRosier encourages people to apply if they have a non-violent crime causing employment difficulties.
"I would like to invite and implore anybody who thinks they might qualify for an expungement under Louisiana law to apply for this program,” he said.
“The average cost by our estimations of private representations, to have an attorney represent you, in obtaining an expungement, is going to be a minimum of $1000 plus those fees that I just described,” he said. The other fees can range from $376, with program discounts, to around $586.
Agencies that collaborate to put on the program gathered to kick off the event, which starts with online applications.
Louisiana Third Circuit Chief Judge Gene Thibodeaux says it's about social justice.
“It’s about economic empowerment, social empowerment and educational empowerment. And this program will allow individuals who have been shut out of our system to have a piece of the American pie. Their piece of Gibraltar, so to speak," Thibodeaux said.
As the popular program kicks off for the third time, DeRosier says scholarships are in the works for some who will ultimately be looking for work.
“With the help of State Representative Mark Abraham, a Job Now program, that will hopefully, and eventually produce scholarships for individuals who need to further their education and job training skills at SOWELA,” DeRosier said.
Only those pre-screened online, who appear eligible for expungement will be invited back. The program can only assist those whose criminal prosecution or arrest occurred in Calcasieu Parish, which is the 14th Judicial District of Louisiana.
Apply at www.freshstartcalcasieu.com. The event is limited to the first 300 people who apply.