It Takes a Village...

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On Tuesday, March 12, our pro bono group spent all day meeting with clients at the New Hanover County Public Library in downtown Wilmington. The day was a huge success. As a result of all the hard work of the pro bono students and the fantastic attorneys who volunteered to help with the clinic, we were able to assist more clients with their unmet legal needs than in any previous Expunction Clinic.

And yet, as we worked through the day, we came to realize that we were only chipping off the tip of the iceberg. Dozens of community members showed up throughout the day who we we did not have the ability to assist. What's more, many of the clients we were able to assist spoke of untold friends and family members who could also benefit from our services. It became clear to us that there is a great deal more work to be done.

Giving individuals with criminal records the opportunity for a fresh start is essential to allowing those people to become productive members of society. They need to be able to apply to jobs without the fear that their application will be tossed as soon as a background check is conducted. They need to be defined as a "person," not a "criminal." And they need the chance to show that their presence in a community is for its benefit, not its detriment.

Providing these services for our clients is vital not only for the individuals, but for the community. The whole community benefits when individuals are given the opportunity to return to the workforce and join the tax base. Families become stronger, and fewer community resources have to be devoted to repairing broken homes. Luckily, some citizens of Wilmington are realizing this and are lending their support to benefit individuals and the community as a whole.

District Attorney Ben David is one of these individuals. Mr. David takes a refreshing approach to his work as District Attorney. He believes in the "tough love" approach of the criminal justice system; after people have been shown the "tough" in court and have repaid their debts to society, he believes they must also be shown the "love" so they have the chance to benefit themselves, their families, and society as a whole. His tireless efforts in the community have helped make our work possible.

Clinic participants with Library Director Harry Tuchmayer

Library Director Harry Tuchmayer is another one of these individuals. Mr. Tuchmayer graciously allowed us to use his facilities free of charge. The library has hosted many programs that allow people to gain the knowledge and training to succeed in life. Andrew Carnegie once said that "A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert." Mr. Tuchmayer and all the library employees are helping to ensure that Wilmington's spring never fails.

While there is much more work to do to help the lives of many individuals and benefit communities as a whole, we have taken solace in the victories we have achieved, and in knowing that there are many determined community members helping to make a difference.

Posted by Justice D. Warren on Wed. March 12, 2014 8:44 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2014 (Eastern, Expunction)

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