A chance for a fresh start: Expungement clinic coming in September

Published 11:04 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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An opportunity for a new beginning is coming soon in Jessamine County.

Community members have organized an expungement clinic for individuals seeking to clean their criminal record, regain voting rights, the right to sit on a jury, and the right to run for public office.

The clinic will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Revive Life House at 800 South Main St., Suite C, in Nicholasville.

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On Saturday, Sept. 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., community members in recovery will come together to clean Lake Mingo as an extension of the clinic. Revive will host a cookout and group meeting after the cleanup for the volunteers.

Tipton Moody approached Kate Holway of Shepherd’s House with the idea for the clinic during a corn hole tournament.

Moody, Holway and Revive Life House Operations Manager Ashley McClain got together to brainstorm shortly after, expanding on the idea to include two separate events.

Moody contacted the Department of Public Advocacy (DPA) and was able to set up the clinic. He said that most of these clinics are started from community initiatives.

“People don’t realize that a criminal background for someone in Kentucky leaves them shackled to a past act for the rest of their life. Even after you have served your sentence, whatever that sentence may be,” Moody said.

Currently, there are 162,000 people in the state of Kentucky who can not vote.

According to Kentucky State Police, drug-related offenses make up for more than 1 in 5 arrests in the state. Criminal records are closely tied with those who experience substance use disorder.

Unsurprisingly, those who work in recovery have organized this class with Moody.

“I mean, here’s the thing. We’re in Nicholasville. Anything we can do to help this community any way we can, we’re going to find a way to do it. And sometimes I don’t know what it looks like, but the door’s open, and the lights are on, and we’ll figure it out,” Holway said.

Moody said he believes Jessamine County is viewed less favorably than other counties in the Bluegrass region and needs more for the community to be involved.

“Everything happens in the counties around us. Jessamine is a county of 50,000 residents. It’s large enough that we need to have activities and events that are uniquely ours,” she said.

The event is deeply personal for Holway, who shared her experience with substance abuse.

“I was an alcoholic. That was me. I liked to drink. I caused enough chaos in my life that when I got sober, I wanted to do the right thing. I was tired of being sick and tired,” Holway said.

She recently celebrated more than 30 years of sobriety.

“That’s the only thing that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous ever asked anybody to do is to pay it forward, and that’s what we’re here to do. Pay it forward in whatever way that we can,” Holway said. “We have taken so much from life when we’re in our disease when you get sober; it always is such an honor and a privilege to be able to give back.”

The event also holds personal significance for Moody, who is from Wilmore.

He was raised in a Christian family, with a father and maternal grandfather holding positions of Methodist pastors.

As a result, Moody grew up in the church, and in his previous adult years, he said he was a “bad boy who loved Jesus.”

However, he’s also a man with a felony conviction and who has battled substance use disorder for almost 30 years.

His drug of choice was meth, and when it wasn’t around, Moody went to the bottle.

Moody received a felony conviction at a very late age, and after serving his time and being released, he was soon arrested again for possession after not using a turn signal. He went back to serve 90 days of his 120-day sentence.

“The good Lord had cut me off his knees several times before during my life, trying to teach me a lesson, but this was the one that finally stuck. Being in jail for three months, that was my rock bottom. And that’s when we were acquainted,” Moody said.

Moody despises the word recovery and looks at his fresh start from a different perspective.

“I like to think that we are reimagined and reinvented. We have renewed hearts and restored minds,” he said.

Once he began to live a renewed life, he started working with the League of Women Voters to get involved with their voting advocacy work.

After three or four years, he began working with Advocacy Based on Lived Experience, or ABLE, which is an organization by directly impacted people for directly impacted people.

“We want to engage them into civic life. A lot of people have to reengage with their families, they have to reengage with their communities of origin, and we want them to learn how to tell their stories using their own voice to rebuild the relationships that have been broken and to build new ones,” Moody said.

He hopes it will inspire others to take agency in difficult times.

“People with criminal backgrounds are too often marginalized in perpetuity. And we are trying to reach those people like us with criminal backgrounds, with addiction problems, and it does not have to be addiction specific, but trying to change the public perception and trying to create an authentic power where many of us feel that society has taken that away. We are here to say that no, we are here to reclaim that power, and we want you to know about it,” Moody said.

State lawmakers have introduced legislation pertaining to the expungement process in recent months.

This year, Kentucky Representative Daniel Grossberg, D-Louisville sponsored Kentucky House Bill 417 which would establish an automatic expungement process. There would still be requirements to be expunged to hold individuals accountable, but it would make the process much more accessible to the public.

Right now, individuals have to seek expungement on their own.

This bill did not pass, but there is still a chance Kentucky voters will be able to vote on the measure in the 2024 general election.

Until then, events like the one in September are their best chance to start anew.

For more information on what an expungement does and who is eligible, go to https://dpa.ky.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Expungement-Guidebook-updated-6.16.2023.pdf