It is in our interest to overturn the current unjust system and Continue the Mandate of Restorative Justice
Attorney Richard Boykin, Candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court, announced this week that he would seek to bring equity to the Circuit Court by having records expunged once the states’ attorney’s office drops the charges. Boykin was joined by U. S. Congressman Danny Davis (7th District), Victor Dickson (Safer Foundation), & Benny Lee (Second Chance expert and former gang leader).
Boykin’s proposal would shift the unjust burden of seeking the sealing or expungement of arrest records that do not result in formal charges from the arrestee to the Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office would then ensure that the records would be automatically sealed or expunged within 120 days. As Clerk, Boykin plans to seek a general order from the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court to provide the office with this explicit authority to operate with fairness and without discrimination to the poor.
“The current system around expungement and sealing of arrest records has it exactly backward,” Boykin stated. “In the current one-sided system, the arrestee must take the initiative to clear his or her record, and the State’s Attorney makes the determination on whether to fight to keep the arrest on file, or agree to remove it. “That is wrong,” Boykin continued.
People pay up to $150 application fee at the Clerk’s office and another $750 to a lawyer to process their expungement. If charges are dropped or dismissed, the record of the arrest should automatically be expunged. An arrestee is required to come to court and file a petition and then come back to court to argue to clear his or her record if the State’s Attorney decides to fight it.
An arrest record is no small thing when it comes to applying for a job. It can unfairly prevent employment and trap people in a long and desperate cycle of unemployment and poverty. We have to be a compassionate court system. Boykin declared his intention, “As Clerk of the Circuit Court, this is an area where we can continue the mandate of restorative justice. It is the area where we can bring fairness and help to restore individuals’ lives. We will move to have those records automatically expunged and, their records sealed. Everyone deserves an opportunity to move beyond an arrest, be free to live without harassment, and apply for a job without fear that an arrest will come up even after charges are dropped, or cases dismissed.”
The statistics on arrests and charges dropped are startlingly prejudice. In 2018 there were 379,939 people arrested. Of that 47,849 people had their cases dropped—the states’ attorney decided not to prosecute them. The ethnic breakdown of arrests and dropped or dismissed charges is shocking.
The overwhelming majority of people arrested in 2018 were African Americans—Over 245,633 African Americans were arrested. 28,413 African Americans had their charges dropped. You really can’t tell the number of Latinos and Whites arrested because those numbers are reported together as one number— 89,000.
“To reduce the burden on the courts and our local and county government overall,” Boykin stated, “it is in our interest to overturn the current unjust system and make the expungement and sealing of records as efficient and equitable as possible. This initiative can help activate communities with disproportionately high levels of arrests—like Austin, Lawndale, and Englewood so they can begin to stabilize and eventually thrive,” says Boykin.
Second Chance expert, former gang leader and current adjunct professor at Northeastern University, Benny Lee issued a challenge to all legislators, “When do our wrongs end, and our rights begin? Many people face invisible punishment. These are not convictions that are hindering people; these are cases that were thrown out. This kind of policy leads to people committing crimes. Women and men can’t get jobs and licenses to provide for their children. People shouldn’t be burdened with spending money they don’t have. It puts stress on their lives, and they can’t live up to the norms set by society.”
Victor Dickson, President & CEO of Safer Foundation, added “In the City of Chicago, we believe approximately one-third of the citizens have an arrest or conviction record that follows them for life, even if they have been found innocent or charges dropped. Automatic expungement is the right thing to do. Every candidate for public office should be challenged to describe how they would reform the criminal justice system at their level of government and ensure that everyone is treated equitably and has a true second chance at life. This initiative will help our clients tremendously.”
Congressman Danny Davis stated, “One of the most pernicious issues in our country is how we handle criminal justice. No other nation incarcerates and hamstrings people from moving forward like we do. The Bible says, where there is no vision, the people perish. That is why I am pleased when I see people like Richard Boykin run for public office who are willing to take what already exists and move it to another level. I am proud to stand here with Richard Boykin and support his initiative for automatic expungement.”