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Free Help Available to Get Criminal Records Sealed

Cheryl Culpepper says she is a recovering meth addict, working to get her criminal record sealed to help rebuild her life after successfully serving time. (C. Culpepper)
Cheryl Culpepper says she is a recovering meth addict, working to get her criminal record sealed to help rebuild her life after successfully serving time. (C. Culpepper)
April 25, 2016

LAS VEGAS - This is "National Reentry Week," a recognition by the U.S J.ustice Department of the need to help people released from prison as they rebuild their lives.

One local nonprofit, Nevada Legal Services, is offering its assistance free of charge, to people working to get their court records sealed.

Cheryl Culpepper describes herself as a former meth addict with four stints behind bars, who is now clean and sober, and trying to start a new career. But she needs a clean record first.

"My lifelong dream has been to be a veterinary technician," says Culpepper. "In the midst of my addiction, I'd given up that dream. I am now going to school. I am unable to complete the schooling because of my felonies."

Statistics show one in three adults in the U.S. has been arrested by age 23, creating a criminal record that can be a major obstacle to getting a job or finding a place to rent.

Attorney Kris Bergstrom with Nevada Legal Services says a grant from Equal Justice Works and AmeriCorps allows them to have a full-time lawyer working to get people's records sealed.

They also offer classes with Boyd Law School to help people navigate the system.

"For somebody trying to seal their records by themselves, it can be just a really difficult and complicated process," says Bergstrom. "Which is where we come in, because we have a fellow who will file petitions on their behalf, for free."

She says the district attorney is asked to sign off on all requests to seal records, and certain felonies cannot be sealed for 15 years. Sex offenses, crimes against children and DUI cases also cannot be sealed.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV