Today, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission releases a comprehensive study of the laws and policies governing the treatment of juvenile court and arrest records of youth. According to the report Burdened for Life: The Myth of Juvenile Record Confidentiality and Expungement in Illinois, those laws “threaten public safety, produce substantial unnecessary costs, and impede young people’s ability to transition to productive adulthood.” Although state law long has emphasized the principle that a youth’s mistakes should not brand that child for life, Illinois youth have been harmed by the erosion of confidentiality protections and the extreme difficulty and expense of erasing a juvenile record through the expungement process.
In Illinois, tens of thousands of juveniles are arrested each year, and the largest majority of them by far are for non-violent offenses. Over the last decade, the study determined only 3 of every 1,000 arrests – less than one-third of one percent of juvenile arrests – were expunged in Illinois. The Commission’s report is based on a first-of-its-kind study to determine how many juvenile record expungements were granted in each county from 2004 to 2014, interviews and surveys of individuals representing a diverse cross-section of professionals in the justice field, interviews of youth with records, a survey of county clerks, review of police practices in Illinois’ 10 largest cities, and a review of statutes, employment practices and other research.
“Through many recent reforms, Illinois has regained some of its stature as a leader in juvenile justice with laws recognizing kids do make mistakes and should have a chance to correct their actions and become productive citizens,” said George W. Timberlake, who is Chair of the Commission and retired chief judge of the Second Judicial Circuit. “But Illinois’ treatment of juvenile records is out of step with those principles, and we need to revise our weak confidentiality and restrictive expungement laws that have become barriers to rehabilitation of young lives and a threat to the safety of our communities.”
The report recommends a series of enhancements to confidentiality of juvenile records and increased access to juvenile expungement consistent with recommendations of the American Bar Association.
Read more here.