Archive

ShareThis Page
To fight crime, Chicago tries wiping away arrests | TribLIVE.com
News

To fight crime, Chicago tries wiping away arrests

The Associated Press
ChicagoViolenceCleanSlateJPEG0b340
In this July 15, 2014 photo, Mariama Bangura, 17, poses for a portrait on the Northwest side of Chicago. Bangura, 17, was arrested last year after she was accused of threatening a teacher. Though she was never charged, she worries that the incident could sink her adult ambitions. Chicago lawmakers, desperate to curb gun violence in their city, are giving tens of thousands of teens a better chance to find work or get into college, rather than letting a minor episode with police possibly doom them to a life on the gang-dominated streets of some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods. A law recently passed by the state Legislature made Illinois one of the few states to automatically expunge the criminal records of juveniles who were arrested but never charged. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO — Desperate to curb the gun violence wracking their city, Chicago lawmakers are leading the way toward a counterintuitive idea — fighting crime by making it easier for young people to wipe away minor arrest records.

The goal is to give tens of thousands of teens a better chance to find work or get into college, rather than letting a minor episode with police possibly doom them to a life on gang-dominated streets.

A law recently passed by the state Legislature made Illinois one of the few states to automatically expunge the criminal records of juveniles who were arrested but never charged.

Mariama Bangura, 17, was arrested last year because she was accused of threatening a teacher. Though she was never charged, she worries that the incident could sink her adult ambitions.

“I want to be a nurse or massage therapist, and what if the whole thing keeps coming up?” she asked. “I want a career.”

Expungement is not a new idea. The service has long been available for minor arrests and convictions if people know about it and can afford to hire an attorney. The Illinois law makes it automatic for offenses that happen in a specific time frame.

Last year in Cook County, about 16,000 juvenile arrests would have been eligible for expungement. Of those, 661 people applied. All but one succeeded in clearing their records.

That means tens of thousands have arrest records that could derail applications for public housing, financial aid, a teaching certificate or a license to cut hair.

Chicago lawmakers also led the push to “ban the box,” a reference to the box on many employment applications that asks job seekers whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. The proposal would prevent businesses with 15 or more employees from asking about applicants’ criminal records before offering a job interview. The measure was approved last spring and signed on Saturday by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Employers can still ask about criminal history in the job-application process.

To gain support from law enforcement agencies, the sponsors had to scale back the measure. For example, the bill did not include a provision to retroactively expunge records of those arrested before Jan. 1 of next year, a disappointment to community activists who wanted to help people like Bangura, who must apply to have their record expunged.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.