Activists are urging the public to make their voices heard about a bill that would amend Illinois’ criminal record sealing law before a March 8 hearing in Springfield.
State Rep. La Shawn Ford (8th), the main sponsor of the legislation, HB5723, will present it to the Illinois House’s Judiciary II Criminal Law Committee at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The chairwoman of that committee, Rep. Constance Howard (34th), is a chief co-sponsor of the bill. In the past few weeks, other representatives and senators have backed the bill including Rep. Mary Flowers (31st), Rep. Monique Davis (27th), Rep. Arthur Turner II (9th) and Sen. Annazette Collins (5th).
“If we’re going to pass this bill this year, you’re going to have to be involved,” Ford said last month at a town hall meeting regarding the record-sealing measure.
More than 30 community groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Safer Foundation, Chicago Jobs Council and the office of the Cook County Public Defender, support the proposal.
The bill aims to expand the sealing law so more non-violent and non-sexual offenses can be hidden from the public during background checks for housing or employment. In order for an offender’s record to be sealed, all fines or community service, among other stipulations, must be completed. Records would be eligible for sealing four years after the individual’s last sentence is finished.
As the law stands now, just three felonies can be sealed: possession of a controlled substance, prostitution and possession of cannabis.
“HB 5723 expands the sealing law and it says, ‘Hey, those non-violent offenses that you may have from five, 10, 15 years ago, those need to become sealable so that you can get jobs; so that you can get housing … so you can get your piece of the American dream,’” said Melissa Williams, criminal justice committee chairwoman of the NAACP’s Westside Branch at the town hall Feb. 25.
Williams, along with other community organizations, is asking residents to call or e-mail the state representatives who sit on the committee. (Their contact information can be found at the end of this article.)
“We need to be letting people know we support HB 5723, and we expect them to do the same,” Williams said at the town hall.
“Get your brothers. Let’s stand and show them that they are going to treat us like the people we are.”
Illinois House Judiciary Committee members
Chairperson: Constance A. Howard (D-34th) (already a HB5723 chief co-sponsor)
Vice-Chairperson: Emily McAsey (D-85th) – (217) 782-4179 – (815) 372-0085
416 N. Weber Rd. – Romeoville, IL 60446 – Will County
Republican Spokesperson: Dennis M. Reboletti (R- 46th) – (217) 782-4014 – (630) 530-2730
Addison, IL 60101 – DuPage County
Member: Dena M. Carli (1st – D) – (217) 782-7752 – (773) 863-8701
2650 W. 51st Street – Chicago, IL – Cook County
Member: William Cunningham (35th – D) – (217) 782-8200 – (773) 445-8128
10400 S. Western Ave. – Chicago, IL 60643 – Cook County
Member: Esther Golar (6th – D) – (217) 782-5971 – (773) 925-6580
4926 South Ashland – Chicago, IL 60609 – Cook County
Member: David Reis (108th – R) – (217) 782-2087 – (618) 392-0108
Member:Jim Sacia (89th – R) – (217) 782-8186 – (815) 232-0774
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