FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2022
Contact: Danielle B. Miller
NEW ORLEANS—The Center for Racial Justice (CRJ) at Dillard University hosted its first paid expungement day to provide relief to New Orleans residents.
“We decided that we wanted to give families an opportunity to gain viable employment and adequate housing for their families and move to safer neighborhoods. One barrier that all stakeholders in the criminal justice system know that has been a problem for so many of our citizens is the ability to obtain an expungement,” said Civil District Court Judge and Chair of the CRJ Executive Board, Nicole Sheppard.
The center donated $10,000 dollars to the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana (JAC) to cover expungement filing fees for eligible individuals.
Several stakeholders from throughout the city of New Orleans, such as The Power Coalition, along with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, Southeast Legal Services and Darren Lombard Clerk of Criminal District Court gathered to help citizens obtain expungements for nonviolent offenses.
“One of our objectives when we started the center was to work with the community. We wanted to do at least once a year a community event where we were giving back to the community,” said Executive Director of the CRJ, Dr. Ashraf Esmail. He said he has known a lot of people who are unable to move on with their lives because they can’t afford the expungement.
According to Sherie Thomas, director of Outreach and Engagement for the JAC, Louisiana has the highest expungement fee in the nation, but with assistance from community partners, individuals are able to move forward with their lives.
“We’re seeing changes in families, changes in households, we’re seeing changes in employment and changes in the economy when individuals get an expungement because they make more and they spend more,” Thomas said.
Several attorney’s volunteered their time to help individuals complete their expungement petitions, including Dillard alumnus Jatavian Williams ‘06, who is a partner at the Glago Williams Law Firm.
“Volunteerism, acts of service is paramount to Dillard. I mean, we have an obligation to give back and this is what we are doing, this is an actual event where people in the community who have legal issues can come and have them restored and have those issues remedied,” said Williams. “I am happy to be a part of it, happy to be a proud Dillard alum, just doing our part to give back,” he added.
According to Dr. Esmail, the CRJ will continue its mission to provide relevant resources to residents in New Orleans.
About Dillard University
Dillard University is a historically Black institution that cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place. Located in New Orleans, Dillard is a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs. Ranked 5th on 2021 The New York Times Overall Mobility Index and 14th in 2022 by Academic Influence for Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship, Dillard’s call to future leaders is to Write Your Legacy. Find out more about Louisiana’s oldest HBCU by visiting www.dillard.edu.