SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) — An event Wednesday aims to help get more people in the workforce while also allowing some to get more information about clearing their criminal record.
The American Job Center, the Justice for All Initiative, Belmont College of Law, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and State Reprepresentative Mike Sparks are all working together to make it happen. Sparks explained what it means for constituents with criminal records to have this opportunity.
“I think that’s a four letter word, h-o-p-e, hope. That’s a common denominator I hear from people: you got to have hope,” said Sparks. “We all need a second and third chance. So that’s kind of what this is. We’ve seen some of the top officials make mistakes. You know, we’ve seen it and, and I pray for people that make mistakes, I’ve made those mistakes.”
He said he personally understands the challenges that can come from a run-in with law enforcement.
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“I had the opportunity to preach a mentor of mine’s funeral, Sally Wall, first female police chief in the state of Tennessee, first female, she was a trailblazer. And often think about what would Sally want me to do?” Sparks recalled, explaining that Walls helped him as a young man when he got stopped by a police officer. “I said Sally, I told her what happened. And she just told me she said, ‘that guy was a bad cop.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, he’s a bad cop. I thought every police officer was good, compassionate.’ But here’s the point I made at the funeral: I had a liaison. I had an advocate, and I had a lobbyist in Sally Walls. And if she wouldn’t have took care of me, if she would not have believed to make sure that I was honest, I could have got on the wrong side of the law, instead of being a lawmaker, ironically.”
Expungement clinics can help with clearing up criminal records that can present obstacles to getting jobs, homes or other opportunities. Representative Sparks said businesses are having a tough time getting workers and at the same time there are people who want to work but can’t because they have something on their criminal record.
“This is an opportunity to give them some hope and get them back to work. And also the participation in the workforce. We are at a desperate time in this country to get people back to work,” said Sparks. “I know our unemployment rate is really low 2.6. We’ve got one of the records, our county is 2.7. We’re really proud of that with the town of Smyrna shout out to Mayor Reed brown Hercules, put the participation rate really needs to be improved. And this is an element that can get people back to work.”
He said earlier this year he had to help a constituent who’d gone to attorneys about a minor infraction but couldn’t seem to get any help clearing an incident from his record that happened years ago.
“You shouldn’t have to go to a state senator or a state lawmaker to get your record clean up,” Sparks said. “This is a freedom issue. And it’s a constitution issue. And it’s a workforce development issue.”
Wednesday’s event is for people with records in Rutherford County. They can get a criminal record review, expungement advice and preparation, meet 1-on-1 with an attorney, and it’s a great opportunity to ask questions. The event’s focus is on recruitment and reentry. It’ll include a Mobile American Job Center, Second Chance Employers, and A Driver’s License Mobile Coach.
The clinic and career fair will be at Parkway Baptist Church at 1715 Lee Victory Parkway from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Click here for more information.