At an event geared toward giving non-violent offenders a second chance, volunteers helped qualifying individuals take the first steps toward expunging or sealing their criminal records.
At the first annual Expungement and Record Sealing Summit on Oct. 29, held 10 days before the election, judges and attorneys in St. Clair County helped file petitions for adults with misdemeanor and felony records to have their criminal history removed from their record. The Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and Catholic Urban Programs Neighborhood Law Office organized the event. Only certain offenses can be expunged, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly told the Record.
“The rules are fairly strict and there is a long list of offenses in Illinois which cannot be expunged, including most violent and sex offenses,” he said. “For non-violent offenders the opportunity to get a second chance and maybe a job or education is certainly better than committing another crime. So, the spirit of Land of Lincoln and Catholic Urban Programs’ effort is certainly a good one. Safety, justice and mercy are not conflicting things.”
Kelly said his office was there to address any questions or problems raised by the prosecution. Each petition will be reviewed to allow for any objections by prosecutors or the Illinois State Police.
Not everyone bought into the public service goal of the event, which has taken place in several other counties across the state. Some, including some a few Republican candidates, criticized the summit as a political stunt.
St. Clair County Republican Chairman Doug Jameson declined to comment on the critics’ opinion, deferring to Kelly instead. Kelly found the accusations far-fetched.
“I doubt the Rauner-appointed Prisoner Review Board and a Catholic charity that supported the event had politics in mind,” Kelly said. “Maybe the Masons or Illuminati were secret co-sponsors, too.”