Rauner signs bills to expand criminal record sealing and juvenile record expungement

Rauner signs bills to expand criminal record sealing and juvenile record expungement

The new laws will make it easier for ex-offenders re-enter their communities.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed two bills into law Aug. 24, which will make it easier for ex-offenders to obtain gainful employment and turn their lives around.

House Bill 2373, now Public Act 100-284, expands record sealing eligibility, allowing ex-offenders with felony convictions to apply to have their records sealed from view by many private employers. The new law excludes most sex offenses from sealing, along with certain violent offenses such as domestic battery. Record sealing is important because it closes certain court records from public view. In order to obtain these records, one must first seek a court order.

House Bill 3817, now Public Act 100-285 creates protections for juveniles by automatically expunging arrest records that do not result in delinquency, as well as records for other offenses after a certain amount of time has passed. Certain offenses are excluded from expungement eligibility, such as sexual crimes, most violent crimes and other serious crimes such as residential burglary. The new law also restricts the ability for juvenile records to be shared with the general public.

These two new laws can help chip away at barriers that prevent ex-offenders, including juveniles, from obtaining employment and successfully re-entering their communities.

An overwhelming majority of employers conduct criminal background checks for job applicants, according to a 2012 study from the National Consumer Law Center. A criminal record will often disqualify an ex-offender from a job, even if he or she is otherwise well-qualified.

When former offenders are unable to find work to support themselves and their families, they are more likely to return to crime. This has resulted in almost half of ex-offenders in Illinois ending up back in prison within three years of release. But when an ex-offenders can secure a job, his or her likelihood of re-offending can be drastically reduced.

This is a win for Illinois taxpayers as well because each instance of recidivism costs taxpayers, on average, $118,746, according to a report by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council. This report also projected that recidivism could cost taxpayers more than $16 billion over the course of five years. The passage of these bills could make a dent in those costs if they help more ex-offenders get jobs and stay away from crime.

The General Assembly and the governor should be applauded for taking these important steps toward promoting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism in Illinois.

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