Cook County Court Offers ‘Second Chance’

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsThe Clerk of the Circuit Court Iris Y. Martinez unveiled a new one stop shop center for residents struggling for a second chance. The Expungement Center of Cook County will provide aide for residents struggling to find assistance with filing for an expungement of their criminal records. “By helping those eligible complete their files with all the necessary documentation and streamlining the processes, we will see a much-needed improvement in the number of expungements granted in Cook County,” shared Clerk Iris Martinez.

Expunging a record is a process allowed under the law of the State of Illinois that removes misdemeanor or felony arrests, charges, and convictions from one’s record. However, the process is cumbersome and costly for many individuals, which has impeded tens of thousands of eligible residents from receiving an expungement.

To be eligible to expunge a felony conviction, individuals must have been convicted of a crime that qualifies under the law, have successfully completed their probation/parole period, and have not been rearrested for 3-5 years. Due to the extensive legal process to expunge one’s records, the process can take years and require multiple attempts at submission before it is approved for review by the State’s Attorney’s Office to file in Court. Clerk Martinez’s announcement and the help offered at the new Expungement Center will result in meaningful reforms to many lives.

“There have been over 1,600 expungement applications that have been denied by the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Judiciary due to paperwork issues. True reform allows people to officially exit the criminal justice system. Those eligible have not been rearrested for many years after they have completed their sentence, and we need to help them get their lives back on track. Having a criminal record can impact a person’s ability to find a job, obtain a certificate for job-training, and even prevent a person from finding housing for them and their family. This will offer a true second chance and will impact countless lives,” said Clerk Martinez.

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez on Thursday cut the ribbon on her office’s new Expungement Department, housed at the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th Street and California Avenue. The new department will offer a centralized location for expungements, allowing for that paperwork to be filed in one spot.
Previously, people had to go to the specific district where their case was heard in order to make these filings. The goal, the clerk’s office said, is to help eliminate hurdles for people seeking jobs, housing or education. According to Martinez’s office, the department will offer assistance to those looking to file a petition for expungement as well as educational workshops and consultations. Staff will walk applicants through the expungement process, ensuring they have the necessary information and resources to clear their records.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

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