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Today’s numbers: 4 million and 20,000

Friday, May 16, 2014

* If true, that’s almost a third of the state’s population

Approximately 4 million people in Illinois currently have some type of arrest or conviction record that would show up on a routine background check, said Anthony Lowery, director of policy and advocacy with the Chicago-based Safer Foundation, an organization focused on reducing recidivism rates.

“You may find a few employers who may understand the need for providing second chances, but the majority of employers don’t,” he stressed. “This has been a long-standing battle over the years to just level the playing field [and] provide people who show that they’ve rehabilitated their lives the opportunity to just work. I think the simplicity of work is the most direct link to reduce recidivism, saving taxpayers in this state millions of dollars in the associated costs of incarceration.”

Illinois already prohibits state agencies from asking about criminal history on initial government job applications. Job applicants no longer have to check a box on state employment applications indicating whether they have pled guilty to or been convicted of any criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation.

* On to our second number

Under the Juvenile Court Act, both arrest and court records for juveniles in Illinois are confidential and sealed. That sounds pretty off-limits. So why should people have to spend time and money to expunge juvenile records, if they’re already protected? […]

These are jobs in which the application form will typically include a request for authorization to run a background check. Once a prospective employer sees that, “even while you may figure that these records are sealed and you don’t have to worry about them,” Hamann said, “there’s a whole number of exceptions where it’s within their right and it’s commonplace for them to consider juvenile arrest records.”

He says that includes the Chicago Park District and many government jobs. […]

In 2013 there were about 26,000 juvenile arrests in Cook County. A little over 20,000 of those were arrests that never led to formal criminal charges. Now, bear in mind that juvenile records can’t be expunged until a person turns 18. So each year you have people in the pipeline, coming of age, who are eligible for those expungements. But as you see in the chart above, in 2013, there were only 660 juvenile records expunged in all of Cook County.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - fed up - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    Illinois already prohibits state agencies from asking about criminal history on initial government job applications. Job applicants no longer have to check a box on state employment applications indicating whether they have pled guilty to or been convicted of any criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation.

    Cant wait for Jessie Jr to get a job in Pat Quinns Illinois state budget office when he gets out.

  2. - Federalist - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    What are the types of truly ‘low level crimes’ are recorded that would have 4 million people in Illinois on such roles.

    I presume that very low levels of pot use would be among those, but that certainly should not count for this many people. And of that 4 million how many are from juvenile records.

    I am really interested in this and would like more complete information. If anyone knows, please respond.

  3. - RonOglesby - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    I love the “level the playing field quote”

    You mean make someone with some criminal background = with someone who has not made those poor choices. Got it.

  4. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:20 pm:

    RonOglesby, so you’re arguing that people who have paid their debt to society by completing their punishment be punished for the rest of their lives - perhaps over mistakes made when they were teens?

  5. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:25 pm:

    A third of the population having been arrested is the new normal. Check the google.

  6. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:28 pm:

    I don’t believe that 1/3 of our citizens have criminal convictions on our records unless you are including minor traffic violations.
    Look, 6.3% of our state are persons under 5 years old. The figure is mere puffery.

  7. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    arrests are not convictions

  8. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:38 pm:

    And your point is what?

  9. - DuPage Dave - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:41 pm:

    Incarceration is a big business, both for the government and increasingly for the private sector. Disputes and low-level infractions that used to be dealt with by street cops or a sergeant at the station now become formal charges and are sent on to the prosecutors.

    Our country incarcerates a greater percentage of its population than any other nation. Being number one is nothing to be proud of in this case.

    I have to say I’m disturbed to see that juvenile records might not really be as private as believed. Illinois led the nation in treating juvenile offenders differently from adults over 100 years ago. I hope this report is exaggerated.

  10. - mythoughtis - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:44 pm:

    Notice it said ‘arrest’ records separately from cconvictions. Often arrests are made, but no charges are filed because the circumstances don’t warrent it. To me, arrests without charges should be automatically expunged for everyone at the end of the statute of limitations perod. Why should you have to ask for those to go away?

  11. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    It is illegal to discriminate against someone for an arrest record in hiring decisions but not illegal to consider criminal convictions (unless it is expunged or subject to an executive pardon). Referring to the number of people who are arrested rather than convicted is a red herring.

  12. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:54 pm:

    Rich, Are you asking me? My point is that Jake from Elwood is protesting the truth of something that nobody said.

    He’s also claiming on the basis of nothing that the numbers offered are “puffery” - again, this WHILE failing to distinguish between arrest and conviction (pretty major distinction given the number of tossed arrests, including 8 of 10 misdemeanor arrests in Chicago).

    But this is not just a big city thing, nor is it just a race thing. Nationwide, 40% of white males get arrested at least once by the time they’re 23.

  13. - Precinct Captain - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    ==Cant wait for Jessie Jr to get a job in Pat Quinns Illinois state budget office when he gets out.==

    You’re insane and for the purpose of drive-by comments ignore background checks, interviews, and secondary applications.

    Anyway, the punishment control complex is spiraling out of control, but it has an effect on some people more than others. For example, there is Devah Pager’s research that white felons receive more job callbacks than black non-criminals (controlling for work experience and education level). There are also the myriad ways in which the incarcerated and recently incarcerated are left off our various statistical measures (Becky Petit’s book Invisible Men).

    When we are talking about these issues, it is also helpful to realize where the roots of some of these draconian laws come from. In the case of some our minor crimes, such as malicious mischief, the roots come directly the racism of the society reflected through the state and in others it is simply the idea of long incarcerations for petty theft, etc.

  14. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    Mythoughtis, I agree, but really folks can expunge non-convictions pretty easily. However, like most things in this social media age, once the arrest is out there, it is difficult to remove all traces of it. And I would bet that some employers continue to treat arrests and convictions alike, even though there is a clear legal distinction.

  15. - A guy... - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    Maybe this was part of the effort to keep all those downstate jails open. (obvious snark, Rich said to lighten up) lol

  16. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    If arrests are included as well as convictions, the 4 million figure, I may have been rash to criticize it as puffery, but it is still flawed.

    For example, the document you cite includes arrests for things like truancy and underage consumption of alcohol.

    Also, if folks fail to avail themselves of the relatively simple and inexpensive process to get their non-convictions expunged, shame on them. This is a smart action to consider before applying for a new job. One wonders how many of the alleged “4 million” fall into that category.

  17. - Anonymous - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:10 pm:

    as a trade union member i have been denied work at schools and sewer plants for a 35 year old charge, your debt to societey will never be paid

  18. - Anon - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    If we believe in redemption and second chances, then the punishment should be incarceration or fines, not a lifetime of legal discrimination, not just in employment, but in housing, in dog ownership, in federal college grants, and so on. In short, give people a real second chance, a real chance at redemption, which every Christian believes he has gotten from God.

  19. - wordslinger - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    Arrests that don’t result in convictions should automatically be expunged.

  20. - girllawyer - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    Many people who have juvenile records don’t realize they have to take action to get the record expunged. I guess that because juvenile records are (mostly) confidential, they assume the records just disappear eventually. As was noted, they do not.

  21. - RonOglesby - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:41 pm:

    no, they have paid their DEBT. THey are no longer in jail, home confinement, or owe society any money.

    BUT to say that they are now completely equal and their own history does not matter simply does not work. Two equal candidates. One with a criminal history one with out. It may come down to that. And it is a valid look at someone’s character.

    On the other hand I have an uncle that did 2 years when we was 18-20 years old for his mistake. It took him 10-15 years of working and building references so that it no longer mattered. He had PROVEN it was a one time thing.

    Simply saying “all people are equal” doesnt work. These items in people’s history can mean things.

  22. - Federalist - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    Arrests with conviction should be automatically and quickly expunged from all records. The reality that this is not done is ridiculous. Of course ,some arrests lead to lesser plea bargained convictions- those would stand.

    As to juveniles, this is so tricky. Some juveniles are really dangerous and probably always will be. To ignore that a juvenile has been convicted of a very serious crime seems rather dangerous for society. However, I still lean to expunging juvenile records unless they are convicted as an adult. Then the entire juvenile and adult record should be available.

    That’s my opinion.

  23. - Demoralized - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 1:50 pm:


    You contradicted yourself. On the one hand you said that it should matter, and in the next statement said your uncle proved it no longer mattered. Which is it?

    If a person has paid their debt then why hold it over their head for the rest of their lives? People change. You don’t look at potentially one bad incident in somebody’s lives and say then use that to question their character for the rest of their lives.

    I’m glad your perfect. Most of us aren’t.

  24. - In the Middle - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 2:10 pm:

    I strongly agree with Rich.

    RonOglesby… What gives? A guy pays his debt and is never equal?

    What kinda position is that nonsense? Either they paid their debt or they didn’t. And if they did, it’s quite simple–they’re on equal footing with the rest of us.

  25. - Leave a Light on George - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 2:12 pm:

    To all those that made statements like this..

    “Arrests that don’t result in convictions should automatically be expunged”

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Do you want someone with 4 or 5 DUI arrests but only 1 conviction hired for a job that requires operating a vehicle?

    Do you want someone with several arrests for financial crimes that were dismissed or reduced to something minor in charge of grant money?

    How about an arrest for child porn that gets reduced to something less onerous. Want them hired as juvenile counselor?

    Some mistakes no matter how long ago they occurred need to be part of your employment screening. See the Roman Catholic Church for how to ignore past transgressions and stick your head in the sand.

  26. - wordslinger - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    Leave, you’re kind of whacky there.

    I don’t think you’re going to find a prosecutor in the world who reduced child porn charges to something less “onerous.”

    And I don’t know where you’re going with the Catholic Church example.

  27. - MrJM - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 2:38 pm:

    “folks can expunge non-convictions pretty easily.”


    in 2013, three percent of the juvenile arrests in Cook County that didn’t lead to formal criminal charges were expunged.

    Do you think the other 97% of juveniles who were arrested but never charged didn’t get their records expunged because it’s “pretty easy”?

    – MrJM

  28. - fed up - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 2:51 pm:

    Do you think the other 97% of juveniles who were arrested but never charged didn’t get their records expunged because it’s “pretty easy”?

    MrJM. I think they didnt do it because they are ignorant of doing it, or lazy.

  29. - MrJM - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    All 19,000 of them just not smart and hard working like you, huh?

    Yep. That must be it.

    – MrJM

  30. - wordslinger - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    Fed Up, it costs money, too. But if ignorant and lazy works for you….

  31. - fed up - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    Ignorant doesnt mean not smart MJM. But i’m guessing you didn’t know that which would make you Ignorant.

    Wordslinger, the Fees can be waived if you are unable to pay, damn that Google is handy.

    So yes, I stand by Lazy and ignorant statement.

  32. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 3:13 pm:

    Lazy and ignorant? How “lazy and ignorant” is it for government to keep, store, maintain and distribute records, year after year in perpetuity, on citizens it has never bothered to prove guilty of anything at all?

  33. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    OK, calm down. Stop insulting everybody.

  34. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 3:50 pm:

    @fed up -

    I think “ignorant” is the wrong word. Most Americans I think would be a little dumbfounded upon learning that their government not only maintains records of youth doing nothing wrong, but distributes them.

    It’s not like the State’s Attorney sends everyone a notice “Hey, we’ve decided not to press changes, but if you don’t fill out the enclosed form to request your arrest record be expunged, it could haunt you for the rest of your life.”

    I recall while working on Illinois’ first expungement bill one legislator who was adamantly opposed to anything that would prohibit employers from doing background checks.

    My response:

    “Employers are already doing background checks, and employees are stealing five times more from them than shoplifters. Employees aren’t stealing because they are career criminals, they are stealing because they feel underpaid and mistreated and feel the company owes them, and because the company does not have simple procedures in place to prevent employee theft.”

    That measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support thanks to some commonsense Republicans who did more than just talk about Christian values, but actually practiced them even when it was politically inconvenient.

    I think we can safely say that every Illinoisan who is eligible would want to have every criminal record they could automatically expunged.

    So, do we want to move forward with common sense legislation that does just that, or, do we want to keep making lots of unnecessary work for Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown’s Office?

    Just my three cents.


  35. - MrJM - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 4:20 pm:

    How to “pretty easily” get your arrest record expunged:

    1) You have to figure out how to get expunged. (I’ll give you that one:
    2) You have to gather all your info, with exact dates and times and locations of arrest info.
    3) You have to file a court petition. (A quick show of hands of everyone who successfully filed a court petition before they turned 21…)
    4) Fees aren’t automatically or routinely waived. ($64 filing fee per arrest + $60 expungement fee)
    5) You have to take time off work or school to go to court. (They’re only open during the week and that’ll be fun to explain to your employer!)
    6) And you don’t get a public defender or other attorney to help. (”The Office of the State Appellate Defender cannot represent you on a petition to expunge or seal your records.”)
    7) And if you get something wrong, you either have get a new court date (more time from work/school) or start all over (with new filing fees).
    8) And you have to do all of this even if you were never charged with a crime, much less convicted of one.

    Yeah, “lazy or ignorant” is the only explanation for failing to do something that can be done “pretty easily” like expungement.

    – MrJM

  36. - "friend of a friend" - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 4:38 pm:

    The truth is this…expungement is legal fiction. You can have no convictions, a pardon, identity theft, successfully completed court supervision which authorizes expungement and still be “outed” by the media, still be illegally required to disclose it, and punished if you don’t. If you are arrested and not convicted then legally you won, they lost. But they still win by being able to bring up the fact that you engaged in criminal conduct. Ok false arrest? You were arrested so you must have engaged in criminal conduct to be arrested, even if the charges are dropped in court. See, this gives CLOUT it’s power. The powers that be decide when to use it against someone and how far they can go. But don’t worry, we are a society that follows the rule of law right? Tell me about it…

  37. - Rod - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 4:43 pm:

    As far as I can tell almost all arrest records for individuals arrested in the City of Chicago before 1970 but never subsequently convicted of a crime have not been entered into any electronic data base. I know of two people that were concerned about this and they had a friend who was a US marshal look up their records and there was nothing.

  38. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, May 16, 14 @ 4:49 pm:

    Compared to most legal proceedings, obtaining an expungement is incredibly streamlined. One document, a fee, usually one court date. It is a routine procedure. One would hope that parents or responsible adults would help a minor along.
    So pipe down on the outrage.

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