Madison County, Illinois is launching an initiative that would make it easier for ex-offenders to expunge or seal their criminal records. Per a report from the Metro East Sun, a southwestern Illinois newspaper, the initiative is a collaboration between the Madison County Employment and Training department and Land of Lincoln Legal Aid. Land of Lincoln Legal Aid is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income persons throughout the state. The two groups have created the “Ready to Work Initiative” with a stated goal of helping individuals with criminal histories overcome those barriers and find gainful employment.
The Ready to Work Initiative will function by providing ex-offenders with attorneys. The lawyers will work with these clients to explore options for improving employability. For instance, a lawyer involved in the Ready to Work Initiative might consult with a client to determine eligibility for criminal record sealing or expungement. If the client is eligible to have his or her record expunged, the lawyer could assist with required paperwork and court advocacy. The Ready to Work Initiative will also look at other barriers that typically bar ex-offenders from job consideration, such as issues with driver’s licenses, professional licenses, or credit history.
Land of Lincoln Legal Aid has previously launched similar initiatives in other parts of the state via its regional offices. This initiative involves the organization’s Western Regional Office, located in Alton, Illinois. The other initiatives have reportedly successfully helped individuals with criminal records, suspended licenses, or poor credit histories use appropriate channels to improve their employability.
Not all criminal records are eligible for expungement (which destroys the criminal record entirely) or sealing (which keeps the record intact but removes it from the public record). The severity of a crime, how recently it occurred, and whether it was a repeat offense are all factors that can dictate eligibility. The lawyers working with the Ready for Work Initiative are knowledgeable about the rules and laws of expungement and can advise clients accordingly. If a candidate is not eligible to have a record expunged or sealed, lawyers with the initiative may be able to advise on other strategies.
Typically, the largest barrier to exploring this type of legal action is the cost associated with hiring a lawyer for assistance. Individuals seeking help through the Ready for Work Initiative will be able to access legal advice and services for free: the program at the Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Western Regional office is funded in full by the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois. The program is funded for two years to start. This funding will help more people in southwestern Illinois to petition for criminal record expungement.
At backgroundchecks.com, we help customers explore their options for having criminal records expunged or sealed. Our MyClearStart program aims to guide clients through this confusing but important process. The program starts with an eligibility test so you can determine whether your record is eligible.