Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A public forum hosted by a Midlands organization is offering people charged with crimes a second chance. It's a chance to have their crime expunged, or, erased from their record.
When a person is charged with a crime, often times it can stick around on their record, causing major issues. Things like employment, student aid and housing can all be impacted.
A workshop Thursday, held by the Columbia Alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, filled up with people looking to have those records erased.
"If your background is a little tainted, than a lot of times you get pushed to the side," said Marquis Benjamin. More than 10 years ago, Benjamin was arrested and charged with a crime.
He chose not to share what that crime was, but the married father of four says though the charge was dismissed, finding steady employment since then has been tough.
"If I go to the first interview, and then I go to the second interview, and I make it to the third, of course that's when the background check comes into play," Benjamin said, adding that often times, he then gets subtle ques that he is no longer in the running for the job.
"We have a program for who have been charged with certain offenses and are eligible to have those arrests records cleaned up," William Bilton, Director of Affiliate Services at the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office. Bilton oversees a program within the office known as the Division Programs and Community Services.
Each month, hundreds of people come to his office to use the program that helps individuals looking to have their records expunged.
Those charged with a crime but not convicted are eligible to have their records expunged, as are people who have had charges dismissed and anyone keeping a clean record since their arrest. Examples include non-violent crimes like under age drinking, fraudulent checks, or failing to stop for blue lights.
"If they are convicted of a minor offense, or a first time offense in certain categories, they can apply to have those arrest records expunged," Bilton said.
"I always felt like I could be anything, but I couldn't," Benjamin said. He will not have to worry about his record again because as of Thursday, his charges have been expunged.
"i can't even put it in to words," Benjamin said when asked what it meant for him and his family, "Everything."
The sorority is hoping to hold another workshop in the fall.
You can also walk into your county prosecutor's office to get the process started, however, most times getting a record expunged is not free.