To Combat Discrimination, Illinois Judges Can Now Seal Arrest, Trial Records of Persons Innocent, Acquitted of Criminal Charges

(Chicago, IL) – Discrimination can haunt even the innocent. Job seekers who have been arrested for a felony crime, but found innocent still face discrimination when seeking employment and housing because the original arrest record has been required to be a public record.

Until now.

Thanks to new, bi-partisan legislation, House Bill 298, sponsored by State Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago) and State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) and approved by Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois judges now have the discretion to seal felony arrest and trial records that ended in either dismissal or acquittal of charges or reversal of a conviction.

“Denying a job or an apartment to an innocent person is discrimination,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).  “This law will help advance social justice in both employment and housing.”

Rodriguez also praised the law’s sponsors and the Governor.

“Representative Howard, Senator Lightford,  the bill’s co-sponsors, and Governor Quinn have rendered a public service to those who face employment and housing discrimination,” said Rodriguez.

In addition to Howard, House sponsors included State Representatives Mary Flowers (D), Marlow Colvin (D), Robyn Gabel (D), Al Riley (D), Lisa Dugan (D), Patrick Verschoore (D) Camille Lilly (D), Arthur Turner (D), La Shawn Ford (D), Rita Mayfield (D), Patricia Bellock (R), and Derrick Smith (D).

In addition to Lightford, Senate sponsors included State Senators Jacqueline Collins (D) Mattie Hunter (D), Thomas Johnson (R), Kwame Raoul (D), Iris Martinez (D), Donne Trotter (D), Toi Hutchinson (D) and Emil Jones, III (D).

The new law reflects one of the 10 key recommendations made by the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a statewide, bipartisan group established in 2008 to examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on racial and ethnic groups. The Commission’s final report, released to the Illinois legislature in December 2010, recommended that the State prohibit the inclusion of drug-related arrests that do not result in conviction in criminal histories collected for employment-related purposes.

The law, signed by Quinn on August 19, is effective immediately.

TASC, Inc. has a 35-year history of promoting social justice and providing alternatives to incarceration in Illinois. TASC’s Racial Justice Initiative, including dissemination of the findings of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, has received generous support from The Chicago Community Trust.

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