Coders Help Bring Speedy Relief to Illinois Pot Convictions

California coders sign on with Cook County State office to look at expungement records

Working hand and hand with California coders, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx announced Tuesday the creation of a partnership with Code for America to expunge tens of thousands of low-level marijuana convictions

Citing that the "current justice system is not designed in the digital age" Foxx described the technology partnership as a way to vacate and expunge records at speeds necessary to address "broadest relief possible." 

"Our goal was to have something ready before the state law took effect in January 2020," Fox said. 

Earlier this year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that will make recreational marijuana legal in Illinois as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director for Code of America, a non-profit group, said their "automatic records-clearing software" would potentially allow them to clear up to 10,000 records a minute. Illinois is the second state that the group has assisted.

"Expungement is for helping people move on with their lives, " Pahlka said. 

New convictions will be dealt with first because older cases are not digitized and harder to access through the computer program. Foxx said that the data from the Illinois State Police show 770,000 convictions for cannabis under 30 grams. The majority of convictions are in Cook County. 

People seeking to expungement their convictions will not need to apply as the software will file all the paperwork necessary to be present to a judge to overturn the conviction. Fox said they will also receive a notice in the mail of a clear record. 

Citing herself as a leader in social justice, Fox said, "These convictions should not keep people from accessing things that they need to be able to be productive citizens in our society: housing, education and employment and their ability to stay in this country."

Contact Us