Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel got a political pat on the back Monday when he was joined by dozens of elected officials and community leaders praising a recently-passed bill that will automatically expunge some arrest records of juveniles.
SB0978, if signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, is one that would "give these kids a chance," Emanuel said.
"It's now time for the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois to join the 21st Century," he said. "This is giving kids a fresh start and a way, in my view, of getting a chance at a job and, most importantly, a college education because then, they can be really productive and do something."
The pending legislation would expunge certain juvenile arrest records automatically for those who are arrested but not charged.
In order to have the record expunged, the certain conditions must be met:
- The individual has turned 18,
- The minor was arrested and no petition for delinquency was filed with the clerk of the circuit court,
- At least six months have passed since the date of the arrest and there have been no other arrests during that period,
- The record is electronically stored in the Illinois State Police database, and
- The arrest was not for a Class 2 or higher felony offense or a sex offense.
Last year alone, there were more 21,000 youth arrests in Illinois, but only 400 people successfully cleared their records, the mayor's office said.
"You have to give people another chance, especially being juveniles -- 16, 15, 14 [years of age]," said activist Annette Holt. Because everybody makes a mistake. So if we give them another opportunity to redeem themselves, then they can go forward and be productive citizens. Otherwise, we're just throwing up our hands and creating more problems that we already are trying to get rid of."
Holt's son, Blair, was shot and killed on a packed Chicago Transit Authority bus in May 2007.
In Cook County, about 75 percent of juvenile arrests don't lead to charges. And since the bill would be retroactive, thousands of people could have records expunged.
Under existing law, adults can have their juvenile records expunged if they were never charged, but have to pay a fee and attend a court hearing.