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B.C. criminal record suspension program looks to help those formerly incarcerated

‘People who are formerly incarcerated face a lot of barriers to … participating successfully in their communities’

A new criminal record suspension program in B.C. has its eyes set on helping the many people formerly incarcerated who struggle to find jobs, homes and reintegrate back into society.

Mark Medgyesi is the executive director of John Howard Society of B.C. and said this new program’s goal is to reduce the barriers that former criminals have to face.

“People who are formerly incarcerated face a lot of barriers to … participating successfully in their communities,” Medgyesi said.

“Only about half of them are employed and even after after 15 years they they face barriers to housing, they face barriers to getting loans and financing, they face barriers, volunteering, all of these things.”

Applying for a pardon or a record suspension typically involves dealing with different courts and different jurisdictions, s well as filling out a lot of complicated forms.

With this program, the John Howard Society of B.C. will be looking to help people along this process— free of charge.

Medgyesi said that those interested do have to apply to be a part of the society’s program.

“In order for someone to be eligible to even apply, they have to have completed any and all of their sentencing conditions associated with any offense, and that includes paying all fines,” Medgyesi said.

“It also involves, depending on when your first offense occurred, waiting at least three, five, or as much as, ten years after completing those requirements.”

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The program is funded by Public Safety Canada. Programs like this exist in other John Howard Society branches, and in February 2022, federal government put out a call for proposals to implement more of these types of record suspension programs.

Despite just launching the program May 1, Medgyesi is noticing a strong uptick in clients since the program’s inception.

“It’s of course in the early days, but we’re seeing instead of one a week, we’re now seeing three to five a week. And we’re expecting that to be upwards of 100 to 150 clients per region by the time the program is is fully known.”

Medgyesi’s current goal is expansion and outreach; he wants everyone to know about the benefits of this program.

The John Howard Society of B.C. is also looking for partnerships with office spaces throughout the province to better access for their clients.