When Andrea Henderson enrolled in a Moving to Work program at The Center for Working Families (TCWF), she was ready to turn things around and willing to work hard to make a new start. During her initial assessment, she suddenly realized it would be even harder than she expected.
The computer search turned up an outstanding warrant for 10-year-old felony indictment she knew nothing about. Sure, she remembered the incident, a chaotic neighborhood free-for-all, but she had never been assigned a court date. After calling about it regularly for a couple of years, she forgot about it and moved on.
Now, instead of going to work, it looked like she’d be going to prison. TCWF’s legal advocate referred her to Georgia Justice Project.
“They took the case and went to work on it,” Henderson says. “And anything they asked me to do, I did.”
As it turned out, the clerical work on the original charge had somehow fallen through the cracks. The papers had her name, but no address, no phone number and no way for her to be informed when a court date was set. In her absence, she was indicted anyway.
Still, the system wanted her jailed and prosecuted. GJP attorneys Suzanne Wakefield and Deborah Poole convinced the judge not to jail her, then set to work to have the charges dropped. “We went to court just about every Monday,” Henderson says of the lengthy process.
With no records nor victims or witnesses willing to come to court, the prosecutor offered probation. Henderson refused, knowing that a new felony on her record would throw her turnaround into a tailspin. Only the day the trial was to begin did the prosecutor finally declare nolle prosequi, meaning the case was dropped.
Henderson now has a job where she started as a dishwasher but was soon promoted to the cleaning crew, where the hours are more regular and the work more enjoyable. She’s taking classes twice weekly to brush up on her math skills and hoping to go to school to train for a profession. “I have a big, supportive family,” she says. “I don’t want to let them down.
She’s also sings the praises of Georgia Justice Project. “Anything they can help you with, they’re ready,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of bad choices. I’m trying to straighten up and do the right thing. They’re helping me do that.”
GJP has now filed a request to expunge the arrest and clear her record. This time, Henderson hopes the paperwork comes through quickly and accurately.