Archive for November, 2010

From an article in the Franklin Times:

GARY | Black males have higher rates of incarceration and of repeat offenses that land them back in jail or prison, statistics show.

Changing that dynamic could begin with expunging their criminal records.

That was the consensus of a discussion Thursday sponsored by the Gary Commission on the Social Status of Black Males in conjunction with the East Chicago-based group Working Outside the Walls and an alliance of grassroot activists.

The panel discussion brought together activists, religious leaders, law enforcement officers and area legislators to talk about a possible Expungement Summit in Northwest Indiana. Expunging the criminal records of juveniles and adults would help them find jobs and turn their lives around, said Bennie Muhammed, GCSSBM executive director.

Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court, outlined how she has organized expungement summits across the state line.

“It’s important for all our communities because we all have the same problem,” she said.

Brown recommended that all agencies working with ex-offenders help organize and participate in an expungement summit. That includes police departments, the courts, lawyers, the public defenders office and the prison review board, Brown said.

“This helps ex-offenders to see us all working together to give them a second chance,” she said.

Some offenses, however, don’t qualify for expungement, including first-degree murder, sexual offense of a minor and DUI, Brown said.

Current state finances may play a part in helping ex-offenders more quickly expunge their arrest and prison records to reduce the rate of recidivism, or relapse into criminal behavior, especially among black males, said Muhammed and state Rep. Vernon G. Smith, D-Gary.

There’s less money for prisons, which will encourage legislators to consider helping ex-cons find employment, Muhammed said.

In Indiana, the rate of recidivism has gone down to 30 percent” primarily because the state’s budget is in a financial crisis, Smith said. “The state is now aggressive in reducing recidivism.”

Smith said he has introduced expungement legislation before, but Republican legislators killed the bill. That may change now that Indiana is in a financial crisis, he said.

“The time is now. We have the financial need because we have to cut our budget,” Smith said. “We have to create a mindset of giving people another chance. They want to castrate you for life.”

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There is a lot of confusion about the numbers of juvenile expungements completed by the court.  WBEZ recently reported as part of their Inside and Out series about juvenile justice in Illinois that only 95 juvenile expungement petitions were successful in 2009.  This reporting is disputed however by numbers that were received directly from the Clerk of the Circuit Court.  You can see the chart below for those numbers:

So as you can see the Clerk of the Court claims over 400 successful juvenile expungements in 2009 (not including numbers for November and December).   Either way, these numbers are woefully low.  In 2009, Chicago Police arrested 18,287 youth under 17 years old.  In Illinois, an arrest = a criminal record.  This means that over 18,000 Chicago youth just last year have criminal records; most of these will technically be eligible for expungement.  Across the state, nearly 48,000 youth are arrested each year.  It is easy to see that the only way to address the need to erase youth criminal records will be through a systemic intervention.

Click on this link to download a copy of the juvenile expungement chart

“The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered” a new study by the Center for Community Alternatives, shows that a majority of colleges and universities now collect criminal history information as part of the college admissions procedures. The survey was done in collaboration with the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. The survey found that a broad array of convictions, including convictions for relatively minor offenses, are viewed as negative factors in the context of admissions decision-making.

Among the studies key findings are:

* 66% of the responding colleges collect criminal justice information, although not all of them consider it in their admissions process.
* A sizable minority (38%) of the responding schools does not collect or use criminal justice information and those schools do not report that their campuses are less safe as a result.
* Most schools that collect and use criminal justice information require additional information and procedures before admitting an applicant with a past criminal record including consultation with academic deans and campus security personnel.
* Less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information.

The use of criminal history records in admissions decision making is problematic for a number of reasons: there is no empirical evidence that shows a links between having a criminal record and posing a risk to campus safety; criminal record information is often inaccurate or misleading; and racial disparities in the criminal justice system means that young people of color are more likely to be affected by admissions practices that screen for criminal records.

In light of the findings, CCA offers a series of recommendations designed to make admissions processes fairer and more evidence-based. A college education is one of society’s most potent and effective crime prevention tools. It opens doors of opportunity, enhances critical thinking, and leads to better and more stable employment. If past criminal convictions are preventing qualified young people from going to college, society as a whole is the loser.

To read the entire study, click here.