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Social Issues Thu Mar 19 2009

Illinois state police defying expungement orders?

That's what Mary Mitchell is saying in her column today:

An investigation by the Chicago Reporter, a monthly investigative publication on race and poverty, found that the state agency has refused to enforce about 1,800 of 21,000 expungement and sealing orders mandated by state judges.
...

Earlier this week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan demanded the State Police immediately conduct an audit to determine the exact number of orders at issue, to comply with court orders and to devise a strategy to reach those people impacted by this issue. "They are not following the law. I am curious about their reasons," Madigan said during an interview. "We've sent off a letter to the director trying to find out what is going on."

Four years ago, Illinois lawmakers who represent districts with large African-American and Latino populations were celebrating legislation that was designed to make it easier for ex-offenders to re-integrate into society.

It was a hard-fought victory.

Expungements and the sealing of criminal records of people with low-level felony or misdemeanor arrests or convictions were viewed as critical to urban communities where unemployment figures were double-digits long before the country sank into a steep recession.

If you're up on a Saturday morning at about 10:30 AM watch some cable access programming. You might see what's going on, especially if there programs may have either a lawyer or a politician as a guest.

That was when I figured out that for a lot of blacks this is a huge issue. Usually the callers are guys who may ask questions about a conviction that they had in their youths. This conviction is holding them back in their lives and perhaps this conviction can be expunged from their records.

Here's what else was found in the investigation:

•  •  Statewide, about 1,800 of the 21,000 sealing and expungement orders issued after the amendment, between 2006 and 2008, went unenforced.

•  •  An additional 900 or so orders went unenforced before theamendment, starting in 1991, when some ex-offender advocates believe the practice began.

•  •  Statewide, 5 percent of the 412 court orders issued in 2008 went unenforced.

•  •  Paul P. Biebel Jr., presiding judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County Criminal Division, got overruled about 13 percent of the time in 2007.

Our ousted ex-governor figured into this article. Larry Trent, the current director of the State Police was appointed by him in 2003. According to Mitchell, Trent may have himself picked up some bad habits. Another thought from Mitchell:

Because African Americans account for about 61 percent of Illinois parolees, it is the group most impacted by the arrogance of this state agency. So, it is quite ironic that it was black community leaders who publicly supported Blagojevich during the corruption scandal that jettisoned him from office.

The failure of the Illinois State Police to expunge and seal criminal records when ordered to do so by a judge also has likely resulted in people who honestly thought they had complied with the law losing their jobs after a background check.

Also, since applying for an expungement costs $60 -- a fee that many applicants are hard-pressed to come by -- the state agency has effectively scammed these applicants when it refused to obey the judge's orders to seal or expunge the records.

Now that we have Gov. Quinn in office and an environment that seeks to break from the past, I hope that we can see some change on this issue. Yeah I know the best way to avoid this is to not commit a crime, however, for those who have paid their debt to society, they should be able to expunge a crime from their record that was only a past offense. Especially if it was a minor one.

And we need for the state police to follow the orders of judges!

 
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