Chicagoans Get Second Chance at Expungement Summit

Erika Oller | The PhoenixAlderman Joe Moore (49th) hosted an event for residents to get certain crimes expunged from their records.

Chicagoans had the chance to meet with lawyers and remove certain cases from their criminal records at 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore’s Expungement Summit on Saturday at Gale Elementary School in northern Rogers Park.

A criminal history can prevent an individual from getting a job, obtaining housing and receiving social services. According to the American Bar Association, an expungement is the complete erasure of a record of criminal conviction.

Although eligibility for an expungement varies for each case and state, there are certain convictions like murder and rape that cannot be expunged under any circumstances, according to Collateral Consequences Resource Center, a nonprofit dedicated to serving formerly incarcerated individuals.

In practice, an expungement can be an opportunity for individuals to overcome the barriers that come with their record. Moore said that the expungement process is a step towards breaking the cycle of crime.

“Recently, there’s been heightened tension in the community involving crime and violence,” Moore said. “One way of breaking the cycle is to give people who may have made a mistake earlier in life a second chance — an opportunity to clear their records, get a decent job, and provide for themselves and their families.”

Eight attorneys from Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) and nine lawyers from Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago teamed up to serve over 70 participants throughout the day.

One participant, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic, said they are glad they came to the summit.

“I needed this event” they said. “I have a regular job, but I wanted to also drive for Uber. Even with a misdemeanor, it stopped me from driving. It takes that extra income out of your pocket.”

According to CGLA, there are 1,463 regulations in Illinois and 48,000 nationwide that pose barriers for individuals with a criminal record. They include restrictions on housing, employment, immigration, voting rights, public benefits and more.

Kimberly Mills, the supervising attorney at CGLA, said she wants to help people stuck behind these barriers reintegrate into society.

“It’s a really vicious cycle,” Mills said. “There are three pillars of stability: employment, social connectedness … and housing. If you don’t have those three things, it’s very, very hard to not go back right into the system.”

The event garnered the support of several community partners. Jane Addams Resource Corporation, a nonprofit organization that provides job skills training, and Erie Family Health Center, a nonprofit health clinic, had tables offering resources for community members.

According to Moore’s website, this summit it is the third expungement event he has hosted. In its first year, there were over 140 participants. In its second year, there were 120. Wayne Frazier, staff assistant to Moore, attributes the decline in participation to the event’s effectiveness.  

“We have a lower count this year because we’ve been taking care of people for the last three years,” Frazier said.

Those looking for further expungement services can make an appointment with the Expungement Help Desk at the Daley Center on 50 West Washington St.

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