CHICAGO – Continuing her efforts to improve the criminal justice system and make it easier for people to find good paying jobs, state Rep. Mary E. Flowers, D-Chicago, recently passed legislation to remove financial barriers to seal or expunge criminal records and is calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to sign the measure into law.
“We have to ensure that people who are trying to do the right thing and work to pay off outstanding legal fees have the means to do so,” said Flowers. “The current system is a paradox; it requires people to pay off fees in order to have their record sealed to gain employment and make the money they need to pay these fees and other obligations. We’re putting disadvantaged people behind the eight-ball and that’s just not fair.”
From her experience working with individuals who have sought to expunge their records, Flowers co-sponsored House Bill 5341, or the Fair Access to Employment (F.A.T.E.) Act. Under this legislation, the approval process for expungement and sealing will remain the same as current practice; however, the court handling the case cannot consider denying a petition for sealing of a criminal record based solely on outstanding court fees. For someone applying for an expungement, the court has the ability to use its discretion about whether or not a person’s record can be expunged. Additionally, if someone has had their record sealed while they still have outstanding court fees, but then pays them afterwards, the cost associated with expunging their record will be waived.
“Access to employment is a major reason we see people return to prison at the levels we do in our community now, and this bill will take an important step forward to ensure that people have the means to take care of their families and pay outstanding debts,” said Flowers. “If Governor Bruce Rauner is serious about reducing recidivism and uplifting underserved communities, he will sign this bill into law immediately so we can get people employed and on the right path.”
House Bill 5341 has passed both the House and the Senate and is expected to be presented to the governor for approval in the near future.
Flowers represents the 31st District, which includes portions of the Auburn-Gresham community in Chicago, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Countryside and others. For more information, please contact Rep. Flowers’ constituent service office at 773-471-5200 or email her at email@example.com.