House Bill 2373, sponsored by state Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Oak Park, passed the Illinois House of Representatives on April 27 by a vote of 80-34-0. Lilly’s bill would expand record sealing eligibility, allowing ex-offenders with previous nonviolent, nonsexual felony convictions to apply to have their records sealed from view by many private employers.
Record sealing isn’t a free pass to erase a person’s criminal history – anyone who wants to have his or her record sealed must make it through an adversarial process in the courts. First, the person has to file a petition with a judge. This triggers notification of law enforcement officials, who have the chance to oppose sealing the record if they believe the ex-offender still poses a public safety risk. If there is no objection and a judge approves the petition, the ex-offender’s record is closed to most viewers, except for law enforcement agencies and employers in sensitive fields such as schools and financial institutions.
But many ex-offenders don’t even have a shot at the process.
HB 2373 would offer more ex-offenders that chance.
Why record sealing matters
More than 90 percent of employers in the U.S. conduct criminal background checks for some applicants, and more than 70 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks for all job applicants, according to a 2012 study from the National Consumer Law Center.
Through this process, ex-offenders are often disqualified from job openings, even if they’re qualified for a position.
And if ex-offenders can’t find work, they won’t be able to get back on their feet; or provide for their families; and many can’t afford basic necessities such as food and housing.
This isn’t just hypothetical – it happens every day. And when ex-offenders can’t find work, they’re more likely to re-enter prison. Nearly 50 percent of ex-offenders in Illinois are back in prison within three years.
But a job changes that. Illinois ex-offenders who are employed a year after release can have a recidivism rate as low as 16 percent, according to research from the Safer Foundation.
This problem doesn’t just affect the individual struggling to find work. Taxpayers have a major incentive to support rehabilitation over recidivism. Each instance of recidivism in Illinois costs, on average, approximately $118,746, including costs borne by taxpayers and victims, according to a report by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council.
So how can the state make it likelier that ex-offenders can find work instead of resorting to crime?
By removing barriers preventing them from getting a good job.
HB 2373 would do just that.
Business liability reform, eliminating wait times for record sealing petitions also needed
Record sealing rules don’t have any effect on a person’s digital footprint. So even if a judge decides to seal someone’s record, that doesn’t necessarily mean she has a fresh start. To have the most meaningful impact possible,…