Project Clean Slate Grows

Project Clean Slate Grows

Project Clean Slate Grows

By Jake Thomas/The Portland Observer – August 14, 2009

Project Clean Slate, a program launched by local businessman Roy Jay that helps people who have been on the wrong side of the law get their lives back together, is attracting interest in other parts of the country.

Jay, who heads the local African American Chamber of Commerce, was in Norfolk, Va., last week talking to law enforcement and government officials about his unique and holistic approach to rehabilitation that has helped over 8,000 people clear up criminal and civil judgments since 2005.

Project Clean Slate is unique program designed to help people who want to work and be responsible members of society, but may have problems with criminal records, outstanding warrants, and other barriers like getting their driver’s license reinstated.

The program is run in concert with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. It arranges voluntary surrenders for people who have been on the run from outstanding warrants, and helps people get misdemeanors and low -level felonies expunged from their records. The program also assists people in getting their driver’s licenses back, which is often a huge barrier to getting employment.

Jay gave a presentation to a group of officials in Virginia that included judges, law enforcement officials, and legislators about his work.

Virginia has similar rehabilitation programs, but none as holistic as Project Cleans Slate, which requires participants to do community service and take classes on personal and community responsibility, said Jay.

“It’s not in anyone’s interest to keep these barriers up,” said Jay, of the new interested he’s attracted from Virginia, a state whose senior Democratic Senator, Jim Webb, recently introduced a bill in Congress to reform the national criminal justice system. “This seems to be a coming wave.”

Jay explained that people across the country are steadily realizing that people who want to work and get their lives back together should be given the opportunity to do so; otherwise they are forced to go on social services.

Although Virginia is intrigued by Jay’s approach, there still remains a good deal of groundwork to be done before something similar can be implemented.

Leonard Cook, the director of Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services and former Eugene police chief, said that one of the big barriers in starting a similar program is getting peoples’ criminal records expunged, which is prevented by law in the state.

Officials who heard Jay’s presentation were especially interested in components of Project Clean Slate that can be easily imported to Virginia, specifically a program to help people get their driver’s licenses back through community service, said Cook.

“We want to do anything we can to make sure people don’t recidivate,” he said.

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