Informational Expungement Expo

First Informational Expungement Expo Draws 150

Attorneys Michael Roche and Tom Verdun assist a participant at the Expo.

The first annual Northern Cook County Informational Expungement Expo drew over 150 people to the Levy Senior Center in Evanston on Saturday, May 21st, 2011. The Expo was a free event, open to the public to educate and aid people with criminal records. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin even stopped by to welcome the crowd!

Event participants were able to consult attorneys about their records, connect with community organizations, and attend panel discussions about challenges that people with criminal records face, including diminished employment opportunities and difficulty obtaining housing assistance or college financial aid. Participants responded favorably to the presentations, finding the panelists’ remarks helpful and informative. One participant remarked that the panelists “covered all the things employers are going to check on and how to clear one’s record”. Another said that the panel discussion he viewed provided “clear, concrete information”.

In addition to viewing panel discussions, most participants met one-on-one with attorneys, who reviewed their criminal histories and helped those found eligible for record expungement or sealing to fill out the necessary paperwork. Those who were not eligible were counseled on other steps that could be taken, such as satisfactorily completing a statutory waiting period, petitioning for executive clemency, or resolving instances of criminal identity theft.

Jordan Burghardt, Employment Outreach Coordinator at the Youth Job Center of Evanston, played a large role in planning and organizing the Expo. The Youth Job Center is one of several organizations that co-hosted the event. Reflecting on the Expo subsequent to the event, Ms. Burghardt described it as “a great opportunity to give Chicago and North Shore residents the chance to meet with volunteer attorneys for free to find out their options regarding sealing, expungement, and executive clemency. We hope that participants got a lot of information out of it.”

As Ms. Burghardt had hoped, many Expo attendees did find it very informative and worthwhile. 100% of the participants who completed an exit survey prior to leaving the event indicated that they found the Expo to be helpful. Some participants detailed the new knowledge they had gleaned. One discovered that “build(ing) up references to overcome criminal records” could be an advantageous job-hunting strategy, while another was simply able to obtain the necessary instructions “to know about (her) background and expunge (her) record”.

The Northern Cook County Informational Expungement Expo was a result of collaborative efforts between the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, the Youth Job Center of Evanston, the City of Evanston, Project NIA, Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAF), and the Office of The Honorable Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Evanston Community Foundation provided generous funding for the event, and Starbucks was an event sponsor. For more information about the annual Northern Cook County Expungement Expo, please click here.