Ivy Tech helps those with records get second chance

Rod Parchman does not wear his felony conviction on his sleeve. In fact, the South Bend native is very reluctant to talk about the time when he was selling drugs and arrested for possession of cocaine.

"I no longer represented what happened 10 years ago. I was a different person then," said Parchman, who now serves as a boxing instructor who guides inner city youngsters through the South Bend Police athletic league.

He also works as a cook at Le Peep in downtown South Bend.

While Parchman realizes he can never magically erase his conviction, he recently completed the required steps to expunge or remove his criminal record from public inspection during background checks.

The Indiana General Assembly passed the "second chance law" in 2011 that has allowed residents like Parchman to dream about job opportunities that he otherwise could not land as long as his conviction followed him around.

"Whenever I came to a background check, I was told that due to my conviction they couldn't use me. It was a burden that I didn't want to carry any more," Parchman said, after sharing his story with more than 150 area residents on Saturday at an expungement informational clinic at Ivy Tech Community College.

The Ivy Tech expungement team, which includes criminal justice graduates who are volunteering their time, outlined and explained the state law and eligibility requirements.

Having your record expunged means you can legally tell a potential employer that you have never been arrested or convicted of a crime, said Marcus Ellison, chairman of Ivy Tech's paralegal program.

Expungement applies to arrests and misdemeanor offenses, certain felony and other offenses that did not include attempt or conviction of homicide crimes, perjury and sex crimes, the South Bend Tribune reported. Certain waiting periods also apply, depending on the crime, for expungement eligibility.

Having a felony conviction on public record can and does prevent people from being hired into the workforce and from securing loans, housing and some public benefits, said Irene Britt, chairwoman of Ivy Tech's criminal justice program.

"We like to think we've done our time and paid our debt and we walk out with a different perspective. But in the eyes of many we're still an offender," Britt said.

The majority of ex-offenders are nonviolent, want to support their families, are willing to work more than one job and participate in training and educational programs, and between five to 10 years removed from their prior convictions, she said.

"It's not that individuals don't want to work, there are things in the way," Britt said.

Expungement clinic attendees were able to schedule meetings with Ivy Tech specialists, who will help them prepare the proper documentation to file expungement requests.

To date, the Ivy Tech team has helped 43 people file the appropriate paperwork with the courts and 12 people complete the process, including Parchman.

Parchman attended Ivy Tech's first expungement clinic back in April. "Anxious" doesn't begin to describe his emotional state. He was first in line to receive help in filing the paperwork.

On Oct. 3, a judge approved Parchman's request.

In promoting Saturday's seminar on his Facebook page, Parchman wrote, "Don't let your past dictate your future." That's also the message he offered those attending the clinic.

"I'm able to relate to them, and yet I'm no longer able to relate to what I did," he said. "I'm looking forward to having my expungement speak for itself. I have options now, and that's a beautiful thing."

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