SPRINGFIELD –Governor Blagojevich took action today to help some former offenders rebuild their lives and become fully productive members of society, by signing Senate Bill 3007, which allows certain criminal records to be sealed.
"By sealing these records, we give people who are struggling to find jobs more opportunities to obtain lawful employment. These individuals have paid their debt to society and should be offered every opportunity to straighten their lives out," said Gov. Blagojevich.
"For those who are starting to get their lives back on track, it’s essential that they have an opportunity to make an honest living. I want to especially thank Senator John Cullerton and Representative Connie Howard for their leadership," Gov. Blagojevich added.
Senate Bill 3007, sponsored by Sen. John J. Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago) amends the Criminal Identification Act and is similar to Senate Bill 788 – signed during last year’s session, but goes one step further by allowing Class 4 felony substance abuse and prostitution violations to be sealed.
"I am very happy that the Governor is willing to give people who made a mistake in their past a second chance for employment. I would like to praise the people in the community who wish to break the cycle of poverty and lobbied so hard for this bill," said Senator Cullerton.
"To the say the least, I am ecstatic that the Governor is signing this bill today. Through this legislation I am confident that many of our citizens in the state of Illinois that have made mistakes will have an opportunity to become employed and productive citizens. I am appreciative of the Governor for his positive action on behalf of the people of Illinois," said Representative Howard.
The bill includes several provisions to protect public safety, including requiring an offender who has been placed on supervision or convicted to have 3 to 4 years of good behavior before getting their records sealed, giving law enforcement access to the sealed records, and allowing employers to check a relevant sealed felony record if another law requires that the employer check the person’s background.
Senate Bill 3007 is supported by several community organizations, including Target Area Development Corporation, and the Cook County State’s Attorney. The bill was negotiated with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
"This is a victory for all the community groups that have struggled to maintain public safety, as this bill provides relief to a population of people who otherwise are virtually unemployable. Removing barriers to employment for low-level drug offenders is a wise fiscal move as it will reduce recidivism and save precious resources for the state of Illinois. More importantly, it scores a great victory for human rights for residents of this state and provides a tool whereby men and women can have a second chance to succeed at becoming productive, tax-paying members of society," said Patricia Watkins, Executive Director of the Target Area Development Corp and Convener of the Developing Justice Coalition.
The legislation stipulates that a person seeking the sealing of substance abuse records must provide proof that they pass a drug test within one month of the request, and guarantees that offenders cannot have a felony sealed if they already have a pre-existing sealed felony. The bill also allows prosecutors and the police an opportunity to object to the sealing of a record.
SB 3007 takes effect June 1st, 2005 and requires that the system is operational within a year of funds being made available by the General Assembly.