Nearly 4.3 million people in Georgia have some kind of criminal record, according to the Georgia Justice Project.

This record can hinder a person’s ability to get a job, find housing and many other critical aspects of daily life.

A program offered by the Georgia Justice Project, based in Atlanta, aims to educate residents about how they can clear their records and remove some of these obstacles.

GJP will host a virtual town hall event via Zoom at 4 p.m. Monday focused on record restriction and expungement. It will open its record assistance clinic to applicants in Glynn and other counties.

At the educational town hall, an attorney with the Georgia Justice Project will explain the available restriction and sealing, or expungement, remedies for a Georgia criminal record.

After the event, individuals living in Glynn County, the Ogeechee Circuit and Tift Judicial Circuit will have an opportunity to apply for record assistance through the clinic.

“Through these Access to Justice virtual events, we specifically target certain jurisdictions, usually ones that are more rural but certainly ones that there’s been a demonstrated lack of access to record assistance or record services,” said Paige Jann, an attorney with GJP. “We have a set site, and then the first step when we are approaching this site or having a clinic is to do the educational town hall, and that is what is occurring on Monday.”

The program’s resources are targeted toward those with Georgia criminal records.

“We use that first presentation as an educational piece to let individuals know what is actually out there, what are our options, what can I actually do to get a conviction or a non-conviction off my record,” Jann said. “And after that event, there’s an opportunity to then apply for actual record assistance where an attorney through Georgia Justice Project reviews their criminal history and determines what they’re eligible for.”

If a person is eligible, their case will be paired with an attorney who will provide free consultation.

The upcoming program will include information and services tailored to Glynn County residents.

“Glynn County is one of those jurisdictions that we identified as there being a need,” Jann said. “So on Monday, although there are a few other counties, Glynn County is one of the ones that we are specifically inviting to that town hall. And then residents of Glynn County are part of that targeted location that we are accepting applications from to screen them for eligibility.”

There are 50 application spaces available for the program. But there is no cap on the number of people who can attend the virtual town hall.

“We usually encourage people anywhere from across the state, if they want to sign up for the presentation, they can just to learn more about record clearing in Georgia,” Jann said.

Registration is required for the town hall and can be completed online at www.eventbrite.com/e/record-restriction-town-hall-part-2-for-glynn-county-and-more-tickets-178934717557.

“Attendance is required at that first presentation because not only do we talk about record clearing in Georgia at that town hall, but we also talk about what the process for the clinic is,” Jann said. “We find that that’s just a really good opportunity to kind of let them know what the process is going to look like moving forward.”

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a probation reform bill this year, Senate Bill 105, that aims to reduce the number of Georgians serving lengthy probation sentences. The law change allows individuals access to early termination of felony probation after three years if they reach their milestones.

Glynn County Democrats have collaborated with GJP to host the town hall. Chairwoman Julie Jordan said the group hopes to raise awareness about this issue, as it’s one that many in Glynn County must deal with.

“A lot of people don’t know that information,” she said. “They don’t know that once these new laws are in place they can go through this and then they don’t have that felony on their record.”

Jordan encouraged any local organization that aids people who will benefit from this program to attend the town hall.

“When you’re on probation and you’ve been convicted of a felony, it affects your housing, it affects your ability to get a job. If you can get your record expunged, then that would be a life changer,” she said.

Josiah Watts, a fellow at the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center, which partners with GJP, helped organize the event because he’s seen how important it can be for Georgia residents.

“Let’s say someone’s in their 50s and they have something that was on their record from when they were 16 or 17 years old. It could even be just a misdemeanor, but it can present barriers to housing, it can present barriers to employment, it can present barriers to just anything and everything that you can think of,” Watts said. “And it’s something that probably could be restricted or expunged.”

Many are unaware that restriction or expungement is an option, he said.

“It’s really about removing obstacles for people that are trying to improve their lives,” he said.

Georgia Justice Project has done record work for clients for many years, Jann said, and has seen firsthand how a criminal record can seem to have a never-ending impact on someone’s life.

“Our organization itself, we believe very much in second chances,” Jann said. “And we believe that record clearing is a way to make that a reality for individuals, making it a way that they can reach their full potential. And then communities like the ones we’re hoping to serve through these events are stronger as a result.”

Although the applications are limited to 50 people, everyone who applies within the 50 will receive some kind of support, even if they are not eligible for the program.

“Even those that might not have anything eligible, they have an opportunity to have their record reviewed by an attorney, and GJP personally calls those individuals and explains to them what’s on their record, why they’re not eligible … Our hope and goal is for every person to leave that town hall in a little bit better position,” Jann said.

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