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Report: Only a Fraction of Juvenile Records Expunged in Illinois

A new report shows young people who've been arrested have a harder time getting their juvenile records destroyed in Illinois than other states. This includes youth who've never been convicted of a crime. (iStockphoto)
A new report shows young people who've been arrested have a harder time getting their juvenile records destroyed in Illinois than other states. This includes youth who've never been convicted of a crime. (iStockphoto)
May 2, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - New research shows only a fraction of a percent of juvenile arrest records in Illinois get expunged, which could be a public safety risk.

Juvenile justice advocates say heavy-handed state laws make it almost impossible for young people to erase a record through the expungement process.

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission report shows that for every 1,000 juvenile arrests, only three records are ever destroyed, and that includes arrests that did not lead to a conviction.

Carolyn Frazier, a lawyer and assistant professor with the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, says those records are also shared with employers and landlords.

"This widespread sharing of juvenile records harms individuals with records and jeopardizes the public safety by creating obstacles to employment, housing and education," says Frazier.

The report also notes that Illinois lags behind other states, which criminalize the improper sharing of juvenile records.

The commission recommends several changes state lawmakers could make, including getting rid of expungement fees, which sometimes can cost more than $300 per arrest.

Commission chair George Timberlake says changes like that would fall in line with recent state laws that will reduce the number of kids in prison and set up community rehabilitation services.

"But Illinois' treatment of juvenile records is clearly out of step with those principles," says Timberlake. "And we need revise our weak confidentiality and restrictive expungement laws that have become barriers to rehabilitation of young lives and a threat to the safety of our communities."

Other suggestions include making the sealing and expunging of these records automatic, a move that's already been adopted in 12 other states.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL