Calcasieu program helps nonviolent offenders expunge records - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Calcasieu program helps nonviolent offenders expunge records

(Source: RNN) (Source: RNN)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

A Calcasieu Parish initiative is aiming to give nonviolent offenders a second chance by expunging convictions and arrests made within the parish at a low cost. 

It's called the "Fresh Start Initiative" and it's a collaborative effort between the DA's office, the Southwest Louisiana Law Center and other organizations. 

"If an individual is attempting to obtain an expungement on their own, privately, it may cost as much as $2,600," said Mark Judson, executive director of the Southwest Louisiana Law Center. 

Judson said the application fee is $26, and in total an expungement could cost an individual around $400 by going through the process. 

The program was started in 2016 and in its first year was able to get 46 cases expunged. One of those cases was J.D.'s, a Lake Charles business owner who wished to remain anonymous.

He said the skeletons in his closet weren't a burden on his earnings, but he said, "It's embarrassing. For me, it was more of an embarrassment."

J.D. simply wanted a fresh start.

"I had a record and it was from some indiscretion of when I was much younger and foolish," he said. 

Thanks to the program, that process is already in the works for Jessica Racca, a mother of two, who said her record was holding her back. 

"I couldn't get a job anywhere," she said. "When you have something on your background they really penalize you - you can't get good jobs."

Racca advises those thinking about starting anew to take a chance and apply. 

"A lot of people give up their lives after they get in trouble, but I didn't," she said. "There's no way."

Racca is in the process of graduating with her bachelor's degree in business administration.

This year, the "Fresh Start Initiative" will take in more than 500 applications.

To learn if you qualify or to fill out an application, click HERE

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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