WICHITA, Kansas – Hundreds of people lined up outside the Sedgwick County Courthouse about two weeks ago hoping to make a fresh start by having their records expunged of past crimes.
One of those was Sontelle Gabrielle who said it was not only embarrassing but tough to move into the professional world with a record. She said the expungement program gave her and others an opportunity to turn their lives around and get back on track.
“I’ve done things in my past as younger self that I’m not exactly proud of, and it’s embarrassing,” said Gabrielle.
She doesn’t dwell on the past – nor does she want to talk about it.
“This expungement day, Clean Slate Day helped me to get that taken care of,” said Gabrielle.
She took part in a trial run of the expungement program before Clean Slate Day debuted on March 4th.
Last year, the president of the Wichita Bar Association wanted to put something together to help people who qualify wipe their records clean.
Marin Pringle law firm attorney Robert Moody was part of that process.
“We recognize, at least me personally, recognize criminal convictions represent a significant barrier to employment, to housing and to some educational grants,” Moody said. “We were able to do a lot of folks that very same day. Some people were able to walk in, and if their crime was one that did not require victim notification, then we could process those expungements the same day.”
On Clean Slate Day, about 150 people had their records expunged. There are still several applicants who are going through the process.
Right now, Gabrielle is helping people with addictions but hopes to advance her career in the future.
“People live, learn and grow from experience,” she said.