(Chicago) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has approved a bill aiming to prevent the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction for TASC clients who have successfully completed probation, including alcohol or drug treatment.
SB2601, sponsored by Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and State Rep. Sonya Harper (D-6), extends the time period during which qualified program participants can ask the court to have their sentence “vacated,” or cancelled. Only participants without a previous felony conviction on record who have not already had a judgment vacated under the program may request this option.
Under the old law, requests to have a judgment vacated had to be submitted within 30 days after adjudication of the case (i.e., within 30 days of the person being sentenced to probation). In practice, this often proved a nearly impossible condition to meet, with an arbitrarily short deadline. A judge is not allowed to grant this type of request until after a participant has completed TASC’s program requirements and been discharged successfully from probation, which usually occurs 12-18 months after sentencing.
Under the new law, individuals will have until 60 days following successful discharge from probation to submit a request. It takes effect on January 1, 2017.
“Now, people who have worked all the way through the program—completing substance use treatment and fulfilling all of the other conditions of probation—won’t be automatically blocked from embarking on a pathway to restored citizenship,” said Laura Brookes, TASC’s policy director.
TASC’s court program is a longstanding alternative-to-incarceration option available to judges under Illinois law for sentencing individuals with substance use problems who are charged with certain non-violent offenses. On average, Illinois judges divert approximately 1,800 people each year to probation with addiction treatment and TASC case management instead of sending them to prison, saving the state millions of dollars in prevented incarceration costs, and connecting individuals to the services needed to address the substance use problems often correlated with their offenses.
A criminal conviction results in a host of long-lasting collateral consequences that dampen prospects of securing a job, finding stable housing, obtaining employment training or education—the very things needed to attain productive community citizenship. The American Bar Association catalogues thousands of such collateral consequences, and Illinois policymakers have passed many measures designed to eliminate them or mitigate their impacts, such as options for criminal record sealing and expungement and certificates of good conduct or relief from disability.