SALT LAKE CITY — One in 3 Utahns have some sort of criminal record, making it difficult to find housing, jobs, services, or simply spending time with their children. But a new app called Rasa launched Wednesday aims to help those looking for a new start.
"You're continuing to be judged by something you did 10,15, 20 years ago sometimes," said Noella Sudbury, founder and CEO of Rasa.
Sudbury created the app after spending years as an attorney and seeing what having a criminal record expunged could do for the morale of a Utah resident.
"Once someone was able to turn their life around, they had all of these collateral consequences of a criminal record. And so early on in my career as a lawyer, I wanted to do something about that," she explained.
The app is simple enough so that in a few steps, anyone can enter information and it goes to work finding records in Utah that can be expunged. Behind the scenes, though, the development was a heavier lift.
"We started developing it a little over a year ago. So it's taken a whole team of developers, as well as lawyers, to work together to design a product that's going to be simple for people to use," said Sudberry.
The app launched with the backing and support of people like West Jordan police chief Ken Wallentine and Jenetta Williams with the NAACP. But it's being used by people who actually work for the app company itself.
"I had 12 foot surgeries, which started my use on OxyContin, which ultimately progressed into an addiction," shared Amy Deschel, Rasa's director of client services. "I was homeless for two years, just right down on Rio Grande Stream. I've been arrested seven different times and when Rio Grande got rolled out, I finally got an opportunity to get help with treatment."
Deschel now works with the Rasa team bringing her personal experience to the table.
"Being able to just come and meet them at their level, you know, walk through this process with them and with no judgment," she said.
Utah’s Clean Slate law went into effect in February. It's estimated that nearly 500,000 Utahns have been identified as those who could have automatic expungement, but the process can be tedious.
"If you hire a lawyer, that could be around $2-3,000," said Sudbury.
But Rasa's services only cost a flat rate of $500 for up to three records.
"Rasa has this great tool, and they have the same mission that we have, is to help people clear their records and access opportunities," said Destiny Garcia, executive director of Clean Slate Utah.
Garcia's organization is even offering financial assistance, and she too understands what having a record does after her fight to expunge her own record.
"While people do make mistakes, but people also can make very great change. and I made mistakes in my past and I shouldn't be defined by them," Garcia said.
For the thousands in the state dealing with similar issues, Rasa now makes it much easier to navigate and forget the past as the future moves forward.