Burdened for Life: The Myth of Juvenile Record Confidentiality and Expungement in Illinois

How to Fix a Broken System that Fails Youth and Harms the State

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s report was produced at the direction of the General Assembly, which passed a resolution calling for research into juvenile confidentiality and expungement law and practice in Illinois and for any needed recommendations for reform.

This first-of-its-kind study included a determination of 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 the 10 largest cities, and a review of statutes, employment practices and other research.

The study concluded that laws and policies governing the treatment of court and arrest records of youth “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 record through the expungement process, according to the report.

The report includes the Commission’s recommendations to enhance confidentiality protections of juvenile records and to increase access to juvenile record expungement.

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