A new bill in Illinois helps first-time, non-violent offenders expunge their records and clear their names.
Senate Bill 3349 was signed into law on August 27th by Governor Pat Quinn, and in the year since the pilot version of the program has been enacted, the Offender Initiative Program has met great success. The one-year pilot took place in Cook County, where offenders who qualify are put in division programs similar to probation rather than going to jail, with the permission of the judge and a state attorney. Qualifications require the offender to make restitution with the victim, and the victim must agree to the terms; perform community service or keep a job; attend school to get vocational training, a high school diploma, or GED; and, if substance abuse was involved, pass drug tests or get treatment for substance abuse.
After the initial qualifications were met, the state’s attorney can request dismissal or expungement of charges when the program is successfully completed. So far, 645 participants have been accepted into the rehabilitation program, and 257 have fulfilled the requirements so far. This past Wednesday, 13 participants graduated from the program, including Philanese Stokes, a 23-year-old who was arrested for credit card forgery, a crime that prevented her from getting one of the 50 jobs she applied for last year. She says she has a “bright” future, and will start massage therapy school next month.
“It’s something that can be imitated elsewhere in Illinois to great effect. We want to have the situation where people don’t have to go to prison. . . . Justice involves your heart and your head,” the governor said at the news conference flanked by State Attorney Anita Alvarez and other lawmakers.
To date, no one who has graduated the program has re-offended, a great statement of the program’s success. However, the expungement program also saved Cook County $1.1 million in tax payer money – a measurable benefit that could inspire other counties in Illinois, and other states across the US.
The law does stipulate that if any of the graduates commits another crime within 5 years of completing the program, their expungement record will be used against them.
The law signed by Governor Quinn allows state’s attorneys around Illinois to create their own programs tailored to the needs of their jurisdiction.
Although South Carolina recently vetoed a similar expungement bill, there are ways to clear your criminal record. Your criminal record can affect your ability to get a job or go back to school. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so contact us today. 803.252.4800.