Rauner signs bill removing barriers for human trafficking survivors
Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed into law a measure allowing human trafficking survivors to apply to have their criminal records sealed for offences committed under coercion.
For human trafficking survivors, the challenges that come with re-integrating into society are compounded by undue barriers. On Aug. 3, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 5494, a measure that removes one of those barriers, effective immediately.
Many human trafficking survivors serve sentences for crimes committed under coercion, resulting in a criminal record that can stifle employment prospects. HB 5494 – now Public Act 100-692 – allows survivors to apply to have their criminal records immediately sealed upon completion of sentences served. If approved by a judge, access to such records would be denied to the general public and most private employers, absent a court order.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, who sponsored the bill, explained in a statement that victims of human trafficking are often forced by their abusers to commit criminal acts. Given that such offenses are committed under duress, Hutchinson said, it’s important to give those survivors the opportunity to rebuild their lives as respected citizens.
PA 100-692 is the latest in a series of recent measures designed to help ex-offenders re-integrate into society. Public Act 100-284, which Rauner signed into law in August 2017, allows ex-offenders with nonviolent, nonsexual felony convictions to apply to have their records sealed.
Also signed last August, Public Act 100-285 protects minors by automatically expunging juvenile arrest records that do not result in delinquency. Other juvenile offenses may also be expunged after a specified length of time has passed. Records that can’t be expunged will still be sealed from the general public under PA 100-285, with the exception of records containing sexual, violent and other serious offences, which are eligible for neither expungement nor sealing.
The new law builds on those earlier reforms, establishing that crimes committed under coercion will not determine the direction of a survivor’s life after abuse.
Survivors of human trafficking still face serious hardships, but by ensuring employment opportunities are within reach on their path back into society, PA 100-692 takes one meaningful step forward.