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Urban League’s Vacating Records Programs Helps People Get A Fresh Start

By RayJaun StellyThe Seattle Medium

The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) has a long history of assisting individuals of color, dating back to 1930. One of the challenges faced by some individuals is having a criminal record, which can hinder their future prospects. Recognizing this issue, ULMS has implemented a Vacating Records Program to help those in need.

Unfortunately, in 2019, the program went dormant due to the retirement of Mack Murray, the attorney who led the program and created the supporting workbook. However, ULMS has recently resumed its efforts to assist individuals with criminal records. Originally known as the Expungement Workshop, the program now focuses on rental rights and responsibilities, aiming to provide guidance and support for tenants with criminal records.

“As somebody who’s been affected by the criminal justice system, helping people understand they are not their previous charge or charges and that they can work past their mistake and do something amazing [is very fulfilling], says Nick Jeffreys, ULMS Community Outreach Organizer.

Maya Manus, ULMS Chief Impact Officer, agrees and says the program is designed provide people with the support they need, without judgment.

“I don’t think people understand how hard it is to find employment and housing with something on their record from the past,” says Manus. “With a program like this and the humility we bring to it, we don’t judge anyone instead we choose to empower.”

According to Manus, the revival of the program was made possible through funding from King County, following the Washington State Supreme Court ruling in State v. Blake. This ruling rendered all charges for personal possession of controlled substances eligible for the vacating process. Inspired by this ruling, the ULMS team updated the workbook created by attorney Mack Murray and restarted their workshops.

“I want to acknowledge my mentor and the only one who originally created this workbook, Mr. Mack Murray,” said Manus. “As an attorney, he saw the need and created the original Expungement Workshop 101 in 2010. This workbook is merely an update from his version as many laws have changed since then. I am thankful you passed the torch, and I will continue to carry on this vital work for our community.”

Jeffreys says that a significant part of the program involves individualized plans for each participant, determining their eligibility for record expungement or sealing. For those who are unable to have their records cleaned, ULMS assists them in finding employment and registering to vote.

ULMS has made itself readily available to participants by offering an online form on their website via for individuals to determine if their criminal convictions can be vacated. Immediate assistance is also available at the Urban League Resource Center on Thursdays.

“As this program goes on, I can see us helping people get into industries that they want, have a livable wage, and have that weight lifted off their back,” said Jeffreys. “This will enrich the community in so many ways. It’s essential to provide resources and overcome generational curses, ensuring access to housing, ownership, and higher-paying employment.”

To further enhance their resources, ULMS has partnered with Microsoft’s Pro Bono Team, the King County Bar Association, and Civil Survival to provide the necessary legal assistance for the criminal record vacating process. With an updated workbook and additional resources, ULMS aims to offer individuals who have made mistakes the opportunity for a clean slate, and no longer being judged solely for their worst day.

“The mission is to empower and educate our people, I think the goal of the program is to do just that and help clean records,” said Manus. “Helping them think about employment or getting a home, the program is designed to get us toward that mission it is vital to make sure we have this aspect because it’s holding our people back.”