Proposed Bill Looks To Reform Juvenile Justice System

CHICAGO (CBS) — It may soon be easier to get juvenile arrest records expunged in Illinois.

Angel Gandy, 19, was arrested when she was 16-years old. WBBM’s Lisa Fielding reports.

“I got my first juvenile case three years ago and thought my career was over,” she said.

Gandy has since completed the after school program at the Lawndale Christian Legal Center and turned her life around.

“I’ve seen my peers who weren’t able to get jobs due to their records,” she said. “I wasn’t able to get my case expunged because it took too long.”

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Burdened for Life: The Myth of Juvenile Record Confidentiality and Expungement in Illinois (WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

Right now under Illinois law, only 3 in 1,000 juvenile arrests are expunged.

“No one should have to be held back and feel discrimination because of something they did as young teenagers. We all make mistakes and some of us want to change,” said Gandy.

Under the proposed Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act, Gandy and others like her could get their records erased quicker with less red tape.

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Angel Gandy talks about her experience with a juvenile record and the fight to get it expunged. (WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

“Illinois’ current juvenile justice reform system needs change. The current system is complicated, costly and dysfunctional and outright prevents or discourages people from even trying,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

HB 3817/SB 2021 would combat unlawful and overly board sharing of juvenile records in Illinois and bring the state’s current law in line with the American Bar Association’s model guidelines on such records.

“It’s time we recognize that the arrest records of young people who have made mistakes can serve as impediments to their future growth and development and even create obstacles to such basics as finding housing and employment as they get older,” Preckwinkle said.

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“Illinois’ current juvenile justice reform system needs change. The current system is complicated, costly and dysfunctional and outright prevents or discourages people from even trying,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. (WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

“By strengthening confidentiality protections for juvenile records and creating greater access to the expungement process, the Act brings our laws in line with best practices recently set forth by the American Bar Association,” said Carolyn Frazier, of Northwestern University’s Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Children and Family Justice Center. “This Act will help thousands of young people in Illinois each year by making it easier for them to find a job, obtain housing, and pursue and education, it will also improve public safety.”

The new law would apply to juveniles with cases that resulted in delinquency; but without charges, it would amend the Juvenile Court Act to eliminate instances when records may be shared with the general public, would automatically expunge juvenile arrests that do not result in a finding of delinquency and automatically expunges records related to juvenile delinquency findings two years after the youth’s case is closed.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook and state Senator Michael Hastings, D-Orland Hills is set to be introduced within the next couple of weeks.

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