III. Record Expungment
Over one million Illinois residents have a criminal record of some kind. Many of these people are attempting to get past their previous missteps and live productive lives, but are hampered by the barriers these criminal records have on their ability to move forward.
The Illinois legislature has worked to address the issue, most recently expanding the number of individuals who are eligible for sealing relief. However, much remains to be done. For example, the practice of private companies purchasing criminal records from governments and making the information available to the public through the internet (despite not being in compliance with new state laws restricting access) has gone unchecked in some instances.
What would you do to address the barriers criminal records present in acquiring safe housing, attaining life-improving education and securing gainful employment?
In particular, how would you direct the Attorney General’s Office to enforce the current laws on the books that seek to achieve records relief?
Having sponsored legislation to expand sealing of records and also to remove barriers to professional licensure, I remain committed to this journey.
As Attorney General, I will use the office to strongly pursue cases of improper access, use, dissemination and sale of criminal records that have been sealed. My office will stand ready to bring suit against companies that violate Illinois’ expungement and sealing laws, which I am proud to have helped craft during my career in the General Assembly, and employers and landlords that unlawfully discriminate against job applicants with records. It is also important for the Attorney General to seek out partnerships with other states’ attorneys general where a common problem appears in multiple states, as is the case with “records search” companies that may operate across jurisdictional boundaries, and I will explore this option. I will also work with the legislature to continuing honing state law to give second chances to ex-offenders, particularly juveniles who are back on the right path and whose education and job prospects are jeopardized by their records.
I would encourage counties to follow Champaign County’s approach and have an Expungement and Record Sealing Summit at least once a year. At these summits, spearheaded by the Circuit Clerk’s Office (and in partnership with local officials, social service agencies and churches), local lawyers volunteer to assist individuals with completing and filing expungement applications and answer questions regarding the process. The Circuit Clerk’s Office also waives the filing fees for all applications filed that day. This approach has been extremely successful in Champaign County and promotes cooperation among government entities and lawyers as they work collaboratively to bridge the justice gap.
I would explore class action options for pursuing legal remedies against private companies that continue to provide employers with information regarding criminal records that already have been expunged or sealed.