Students at Power House Charter High School in North Lawndale invite you to a workshop about the importance and value of expunging juvenile criminal records.

New Starts, Second Chances: Erasing Juvenile Criminal Records
Date: Monday, December 12
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Address: Power House High School, 931 S. Homan Ave

Free Pizza and Refreshments

Click here to download the flier for the event


A group of young people from Depaul University created this song to encourage other youth to clear their juvenile criminal records:

made mistakes
feel shame
paid your debt
time to regain
your life, start fresh
interviewing for the job
dressed to impress
with more skill than is needed
but the job goes to Dropout Bob
feel cheated
only to find out it’s your record
holding you back
so you set your fingers on the keyboard
searching the net
for a way to get your record cleared
expungement erases a criminal record?
sounds too good to be true
find out it’s easy if you know how to
just need your arrest record
file a petition, get your reputation restored
$124 per arrest? hard to digest
but fees can be waived
all that’s required is your time and energy
to start a brand new life
before you’re twenty
so there’s no excuse cause now you know
get your record expunged, don’t be a zero

A group of freshmen students at Power House Charter High School spent last school year learning about juvenile expungement. Many of the young people had direct knowledge of the impact that juvenile criminal records can have on a life based on their experiences with friends and family. This year, some of these same students will continue to partner with the Coalition for Juvenile Expungement Reform to push for the passage of a bill to reform this process.

One of the projects that the students completed last May was a series of 6 word poems about juvenile expungement. Here are two examples. One is from a student named Anthony:

The other is from Orlando:

You can see all of the 6 word poems created by the Power House Charter High School students HERE.

From Chicago Muckrakers:

For many Illinoisians arrested when they were juveniles, the novelist William Faulkner’s dictum that, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past,” rings frustratingly true.

Last year, WBEZ examined the state’s juvenile justice system. One set of stories featured young people who couldn’t access jobs as adults because they had been arrested years before.

Take the case of a Chicago resident named Franklin, arrested because he brought a knife to school with him at age 11. Franklin didn’t use the knife, and he never went to court for any kind of hearing about the matter.

But by the time he was 20 and seeking a $15-per-hour position with the U.S. Census Bureau, the incident haunted him out of a job. “By the time Franklin could trace the red flag on his record to his arrest at 11–an arrest for which he never went to court–it was too late,” WBEZ’s Linda Paul wrote. He didn’t get the job.

There is a path in place whereby people with juvenile arrest records can petition to have their records expunged. The vast majority of youth in the area don’t take these steps, however.

Read the rest especially the part where Mariah’s story is referenced…


I woke up this morning with a plan for how my day would go. Then as is often the case, my plans had to change. Let me tell you a story.

Early this morning, I got a call from a young woman who I have known since she was a freshman in high school. She was a member of a youth-led social change project that I co-founded with a group of young women of color. She has been an anti-violence activist and is a budding anti-prison organizer. The young woman who I will call Mariah just turned 21 in June. In that same month, she graduated as a registered nurse from a local community college. We were all so excited and are so proud of her accomplishment. This summer, Mariah successfully passed her nursing boards. She then officially applied for her nursing license. She needs a license in order to practice as a nurse in Illinois. This morning, she received this letter from the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation:

The key sections of the letter read:

Why you might ask?

Your FBI fingerprint results indicate that you were arrested 5/10/2004 in Chicago, IL and charged with BATTERY/BODILY HARM.

Mariah’s so-called arrest occurred when she was in the 8th grade. She and a friend got into a physical fight at school. The police were called and both young women were taken to the local precinct. They stayed there for less than an hour until their parents could pick them up. They were promptly released. Mariah had forgotten about this incident until she received the letter from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation today. The case never went to juvenile court and Mariah didn’t even know that she had been actually arrested. Mariah’s situation is by no means unique. Thousands of young people in Chicago face a similar circumstance.

As a way to document the difficult, costly, and tedious process of expunging Mariah’s juvenile criminal record, I will be posting regular updates on this blog. Tomorrow, her journey to expunge her juvenile criminal records begins with a trip to 3510 S. Michigan Avenue to get a copy of her juvenile RAP sheet. I will be accompanying her and will report back on how it went.

When I write about the school to prison pipeline and other such issues, I worry that people think that it is just an abstraction. It isn’t. Real young people are being caught up in this process. Real young people’s lives are being impacted by juvenile criminal records that they don’t even know they have. This is not an abstraction.

This youth-friendly handout is an invaluable resource to help explain the impact and effects of convictions and criminal records.  We thank our friend, Cait Patterson of First Defense Legal Aid, for creating this useful document.

After months of trying to figure out how many actual expungements of juvenile criminal records were happening in Cook County, Linda Paul who is a journalist was able to get these confirmed numbers from the Clerk of the Circuit Court. These numbers are paltry and the Court should be ashamed of itself in our opinion. For reference, in 2010, there were over 27,000 arrests of juveniles under 17 years old in Chicago. Each time a young person is arrested in Chicago, they have a record. There were ONLY 80 juvenile criminal records expunged in Cook County for that same year!

Here are confirmed numbers regarding Juvenile Expungements.


Juvenile Expungements in Cook County 2006 to 2011



Expungements Denied
















2011 (to date)






Source: Clerk of the Circuit Court via Linda Paul (June 2011)

Here is the disclaimer from the Clerk of Court that came along with the numbers:

The information provided is a custom produced summary of the electronic court record that is maintained by the Clerk of the Circuit Court for internal and administrative purposes, from the paper documents with an understanding that the information is true and correct in as far as all aspects of the documents physically filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The official court records are held and maintained in the hard copy paper files in the courthouse or other official Clerk’s repositories. The Clerk diligently strives to maintain accurate, complete and timely data in its electronic databases but shall not be liable for any consequential, exemplary, incidental or special damages arising from or in connection with data or information produced in response to the request for custom programming. However, because of the many variables involved in producing customized electronic data reports, users should not cite the provided information as an official or authoritative source and are advised to independently verify all information. All Users are advised to independently verify any information or data obtained with official court information reposing in the court files (i.e., pleadings, orders, half sheets, file jackets and the contents thereof, etc.).