On May 13, 2014, Michelle Mussett received an “Outstanding MSW Community Project” Award at the 20th Annual San José State University School of Social Work Celebration of Community Connections. For the last academic year, Michelle has been the social work graduate intern for CommUniverCity’s Record Clearance Project.
The Record Clearance Project is a joint venture with CommUniverCity San José and the San José State University Justice Studies Department. All clients who participate in the RCP are former prisoners who have criminal records within Santa Clara County, and are seeking expungement. It is the program’s hope that expungement intervention will significantly reduce recidivism rates, and offer clients access to jobs, housing, student loans, and public benefits that were previously denied them. The RCP is offered as an undergraduate class and as an undergraduate internship opportunity. In the class, undergraduate justice studies students are trained in public speaking, client interviewing, and expungement law, and then are supervised as they create and submit individual expungement petitions to the Santa Clara County courts.
The award winning project laid the groundwork for a peer mentoring program, creating an opportunity for RCP to provide social, as well as legal, support. Michelle created the framework for the peer mentor program, including a training guide and the peer mentor employee manual. Development of this guide was aided significantly by RCP founder Peggy Stevenson, JD, and by the assistance and input of the peer mentors themselves. There are three peer mentors currently being trained, using the proposed framework, and they will be ready in fall when a new round of clients enters the program.
These peer mentors are those that have already completed their expungement through the Record Clearance Project, and are in a unique position to offer their advice and guidance to those just starting the expungement process. They can share their reintegration experiences, give advice, support the clients through difficulties with employment, education or family, and also promote rapid completion of the expungement process. The peer mentors now have the organizational and structural supports in place to do their jobs effectively and safely, the benefit of which will be passed directly to clients in the coming academic year.
For more information about the Record Clearance Project and the work they do please http://www.sjsu.edu/justicestudies/programs-events/rcp/ or http://cucsj.org/programs/record-clearance-project/