MYRTLE BEACH (WBTW) – More than twenty thousand people are incarcerated in South Carolina and, at some point, the vast majority will get out of prison; but while they go free, they’re not free from their criminal records.
However, there are ways for those who have paid their debt to society to clean up their criminal history.
Past convictions can create obstacles for people working to turn their lives around.
“I’m trying to advance myself in life now, I’ve been in and out of jail, not able to get proper work and what not,” said participant Samuel Keith.
Keith says it’s hard to get ahead with a criminal record holding him back.
“I think I need to venture to all avenues they have that i can take so that i can support myself in my mission right now,” he said.
Part of that mission brought Keith to the expungement and pardon workshop in Myrtle Beach created by former parole officer Curtis Wright.
“I was a parole officer for 26 years and I knew how hard it was for people even if they were on parole to get a job because of the record that they had,” said Wright.
Wright teamed up the solicitors office and probation parole department to show eligible applicants how they can wipe their record clean.
“If you did it when you were a teenager and now you’re an adult, you don’t need this to follow you the rest of your life,” he said.
The workshop provided the necessary paperwork to file for a pardon or expungement and explained the difference between the two.
Javing a pardon does not mean everything goes away, an expungement does; but once a pardon goes into affect the law states those charges can not be erased.
One participant, who declined to be named, was convicted over a decade ago. She has since earned a master’s degree, but the specter of her record still hangs over her.
“After getting my masters degree, and applying for certification in my field, that was held up, even though that charge was pardoned.” she said.
Right now records are expunged in only a few cases, so she still has to check yes to having a criminal record on background checks.
“You try to do things to better your life and be a productive citizen in society, but the barriers out there are just tremendous,” she said.l
A bill now in the state house would allow pardoned criminals to have their criminal records expunged or erased after ten years.
That bill’s future, however, is uncertain as it ended the current session in committee.
Among the bill’s three sponsors is state representative Robert Williams of Darlington.
The workshop is sponsored by Myrtle Beach’s Neighborhood Services Division. Two are held each year, one in Horry County and one in Georgetown County.
The next workshop will be held in March. For more information, call 918-1062. Here are the eligibility requirements:
• Conviction/Sentence must be five years old
• Arrest/Conviction within Horry/Georgetown Counties
• Successful Pre-Trial Intervention
• First Offense Misdemeanor Fraudulent Check
• First Offense Simple Marijuana Possession
• First Offense Conviction in Magistrate or Municipal Court
• Youthful Offender (First Offense)
• Failure to Stop (First Offense)
• Juvenile Offenses