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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland paid the $450 fee to expunge the records of 24 non-violent offenders. The money came from his Better Memphis Fund, a collection of private donations used to pay the costly fees.

At T-Shirt Champions in Parkway Village, owner Mike Bowen said 17 of his 45 employees are ex-offenders and may not be able to get jobs at other companies.

He understood the challenges they face.

“The average attorney is going to charge $2,000-$5,000 to get an ex-offender expunged. They don’t have that kind of money,” he said.

But when people can’t get jobs, they can turn back to crime to get money.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said helping people expunge their records will help the whole city.

“If people have job opportunities and better self-worth and better futures, they wont commit crimes,” Strickland said.

He says that’s why he created the Better Memphis Fund.

Private donors have given $55,000 to help pay the $450 expungement fee for nonviolent offenders.

The Mayor delivered checks for 24 people who qualified Wednesday.

“They go through the attorney general’s office to be approved. If they’re approved, they go to the judge. If they become an applicant, they file a petition,” Shelby County general sessions clerk Ed Stanton said.

Officials said applicants can only have nonviolent crimes like types of drug possession, burglary and disorderly conduct.

The sentence had to be less than one year.

Bowen said he understood why employers would be cautious, but urged them to see the benefit to their neighbors.

“We feel like we’re the lucky ones because we’ve not done anything special. All we’ve done is given human beings an opportunity to come here and succeed,” he said.

If you’re interested in expungement, click here.