“David leaves his home in Harvey, IL at 6:30AM. He walks to a Metra Station, transfers to the Blue Line, and gets off at the Daley Center at 8AM. When he finally steps off the elevator and turns the corner, his heart skips a beat. He’s one of the first twenty-five people in line this time! Last time he didn’t get here early enough and left empty handed. He prays that he qualifies for help. He has done everything else he needed to do. He stayed out of trouble. He enrolled in job training. He even had a great job offer in hand only to have it rescinded after a background check came up positive.
Except for 30 miles he had to travel, “David” is a typical person we serve at our Expungement Help Desk at the Daley Center. He is an African American male between thirty and fifty years of age. His last arrest was nearly 10 years ago, and his last conviction is older than that. He is unemployed but looking hard. It is a huge relief when David learns that, like 33% of the people in line each day, he is eligible to clear his entire record. If a judge signs the petition that CGLA helps him to file, he’ll be able to get a job and provide for himself and his family.
“David” is one of the 4,000 people who visited the Daley Center and met with a CGLA attorney this year. He is also one of the 250 who traveled from the southern suburbs to receive that help. Soon the need for that trek will be gone. On September 5th CGLA will be launching the 6th District Expungement Help Desk in Markham.
“David” is one of 4,000 we served. He is also one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record. More than one in four Americans have been arrested for a crime. Each of them, regardless of whether they were charged, let alone convicted, has a permanent criminal record that will serve as a barrier to employment, housing, and educational opportunities for as long as that record remains public.
Illinois law allows people like David, whose crimes were minor and long ago, to ask a judge to clear their record, removing the barrier. CGLA’s role in Chicago has been to ensure the legal process is accessible and efficient. We help people to escape the cycle of opportunities lost and potential squandered.
Our impact in Chicago has caught the attention of judges in the suburban districts of Cook County. Recently, Judge Marjorie Laws, the Presiding Judge of the Sixth District, invited CGLA to open an Expungement Desk in her courthouse in Markham. Thanks to the generosity of CGLA’s donors, the 6th District Expungement Desk in Markham will launch on September 5th.
This is the first time that CGLA has provided a formal service offering outside the city limits of Chicago. That said, CGLA, as the statewide leader in clearing criminal records, is uniquely positioned to meet this need. There’s precedent for expansion as well. CGLA has a long history of following the population we serve. In 1973, we served exclusively residents of Cabrini Green. In the mid 90’s, when the city began tearing down the projects and dispersing residents, we followed our population out into the rest of Chicago. On September 5th, 2012, CGLA will follow the need once again, this time into southern Cook County.