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Clerk: Expunging Arrest Records Can Help Employment Chances

Derrick Blakley Derrick Blakley
Derrick Blakley is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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(CBS) – In this economy, jobs are tough to find, and if you’ve been arrested, it’s almost impossible.

That’s one reason unemployment is so high in the inner city. But as CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, there are steps that can provide a second chance.

Before he found a janitor’s job at a parochial school, Sammy Austin couldn’t find work at all because he’d been arrested nine times.

For people who previously have been arrested and can’t find work, “Sometimes it leads them just to go out and do wrong, like rob people, to get money the best way they can,” Austin says.

In the inner city, it’s a daunting problem. Over four years in Englewood — population 25,000 — there were 80,000 arrests. Half were thrown out. But when it comes to finding a job, that doesn’t matter.

“Federal guidance, state legislation says that you cannot discriminate against a person because of an arrest record. But most employers know there’s limited or no enforcement,” says Anthony Lowery of the Safer Foundation.

Courts offer a system to erase arrest records — expungement.

“I call it the second chance,” says Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.

And yet some people mistakenly pass up that chance, she says.

“They think that if a case was dismissed, if they were arrested and not charged, if they were found innocent, then they don’t have a record. But they do have a record,” Brown says.

Expungement can lead to a job. As Austin knows, a job can change your life.

“Being able just to cash a check is a good feeling because it’s your money and you worked hard for it and you earned it,” he says.

On Saturday, June 8, Brown is sponsoring an expungement summit with free help on how to remove arrests, and some convictions, from a criminal record.

It will be held at New Faith Baptist Church, 25 S. Central St., in Matteson. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.