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Legal Aid Partnership in Chicago: Juvenile Record Expungement

Legal Aid Partnership in Chicago: Juvenile Record Expungement

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Through a collaboration with Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), the Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Program at Lawrence Hall Youth Services in Chicago is providing program participants with juvenile record expungement. When a participant is referred to Right Turn, Lawrence Hall sends their information to CGLA. CGLA conducts juvenile and criminal records research and prepares a written summary that explains the contents of the juvenile and criminal record including which arrests/cases are eligible to be expunged and when. For all juvenile arrests and/or juvenile cases that are immediately eligible to be expunged, CGLA files petitions to expunge in the Cook County Circuit Court Juvenile Justice Division and represents Right Turn program participants at juvenile expungement hearings. CGLA’s primary goal in this collaboration is to expunge as many cases from juvenile records as possible with as little disruption as possible to the employment or education of the program participants.

To this end, CGLA gains access to necessary law enforcement and court information through partnerships with the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department and the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Access to this information is necessary to determine if juvenile records exist and whether or not those records are eligible to be expunged. In Cook County, all juvenile expungement petitions must include a summary of arrest records or RAP sheet. The Juvenile Probation Department assists by printing these RAP sheets for the Right Turn program once the program provides a signed release authorizing them to receive the information. In addition, the Clerk of the Circuit Court allows CGLA to use their database to access juvenile court records. Both of these partnerships allow CGLA to access information without the presence of the participant. This means the participant doesn’t have to go to the courthouse and/or each police department related to their arrests in order move forward with a juvenile expungement petition. CGLA’s service model eliminates the need for a participant to conduct any investigation or travel to multiple offices.

In addition, CGLA attends time consuming court hearings on behalf of the participant. Under Illinois law, a hearing before a judge must be held in order for a juvenile expungement to be granted. These hearings are held only at the Juvenile Justice Division courthouse before one particular judge. Depending on how many cases (both expungement and not expungement related) are scheduled, it may take two or three hours for the hearings to begin. Once the judge has ruled on the expungement petitions, orders documenting the decision must be retrieved from the Clerk’s preparation. Preparation of these orders can also take several hours depending on the volume of petitions. CGLA removes the need for participants to attend court by going to the hearing and collecting and returning the court orders to the Right Turn Program at Lawrence Hall Youth Services. This saves the participant time and allows them to work, attend school, or attend a training program instead of waiting at the courthouse.

Through this collaboration, as of March 24, 2017, CGLA has researched and summarized the juvenile and criminal records of 139 Right Turn participants and filed to expunge the eligible juvenile records of 63 Right Turn participants. For these 139 participants, expungement orders have been entered for a total of 285 juvenile arrests and cases (Some participants had several arrests and cases on record).
This partnership has been beneficial for CGLA, Right Turn, and most importantly, the Right Turn participants. This program and the results achieved so far encourage CGLA to continue its mission to make juvenile and criminal records legal services available to all citizens and to partner with other programs like Right Turn in the future. Because the juvenile expungement process requires so much legwork for those seeking relief, Right Turn does not believe that these results could be achieved without a legal services partner. IEL, Lawrence Hall, and Right Turn will continue to seek these partnerships at every site so more participants can have a true “second chance” and connect to their educational, personal, and career goals.

For more information about Lawrence Hall, click here.

For more guidance on strategies and policies that work for youth involved with the juvenile justice system, please refer to Making the Right Turn: A Guide About Improving Transition Outcomes for Youth Involved in the Juvenile Corrections System