Pistons, Detroit, U.S. Attorney partner up for expungement fair

The city of Detroit, the Detroit Pistons, the attorney general, the U.S. Attorney, and many of the advocates in between all agree: a clean slate and a fresh start can mean everything to those ready to move on with their life.

That's why representatives from each party were at the Project Clean Slate resource fair at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit Friday. 

The idea was to connect attorneys with people looking to clear old criminal records for non-violent crimes. The impact can be felt almost immediately with a measured 23% increase in one's income the year after getting a record expunged.

Ken Nixon knows that all too well. He spent 16 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit before his exoneration in 2021. Now, with a smile on his face, he's made it his career helping others get back on their feet. 

"The collateral damage that comes with having a criminal record sometimes is very damaging to a lot of people, so we're working very hard every single day to try to help people get back on the right track," he said.

Nixon works with Safe and Just Michigan, one of the groups in attendance Friday. So was the mayor of Detroit.

"We said to Detroiters, we'll be your lawyer," said Mike Duggan. "You don't need to go hire that lawyer at $5,000. We will represent you and get your record expunged."

Stephani Labelle, the director of Project Clean Slate, called it a "full service expungement program."

"We offer our program to all Detroiters, free of charge. We supply them with an attorney, we handle all of the paperwork, we pay all of the associated fees and we have an attorney go to the hearing with them," she said.

The U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison, who heads up the Eastern District of Michigan has worked on both sides of the criminal justice process.

"We are more than the worst thing we have ever done," she said. "And I say all of us because all of us have made mistakes."

The program does more than expungement too. It helps families move forward with everything from housing to jobs. 

"We have clients come in to us and the only reason they want an expungement is so they can go back to school, so they can get a better job, so they can support their families," said Labelle.

Learn more here.