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Foxx seeks to toss out thousands of pot convictions

Cook County State’s Attorney announces unprecedented plan with organization

Crusader Staff Report

With marijuana in Illinois becoming legal next year, Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx on Tuesday, August 27 announced her plans to expunge “tens of thousands” of pot convictions from the records of residents.

Foxx is teaming up with the organization Code for America for an unprecedented partnership that will use Clear My Record technology to automatically seal tens of thousands of eligible cannabis convictions in Cook County under a newly passed Illinois law, which takes effect January 1, 2020.

Since 2016, Code for America has used its technology to help people remove eligible convictions from their records. The organization has set a goal of clearing 250,000 eligible convictions nationwide by the end of 2019.

Signed into law in June, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will provide relief to tens of thousands of Illinois residents.

Cook County is the first county outside of California to take part in Code for America’s Clear My Record program to help government automatically clear convictions eligible for relief under the law. By providing proactive and automatic record clearance services, Illinois has an opportunity to address the wrongs caused by the failed war on drugs, felt most acutely in communities of color, and fulfill the promise of the reforms aimed at remedying the legacy of mass incarceration in Illinois.

“The technology and innovation made possible through our partnership with Code for America will help us provide broad and equitable conviction relief for tens of thousands of people while ensuring that more of our time and resources can be used to combat violent crime,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

“This partnership is one of many steps Cook County is taking to leverage technology in order to better serve our community and bring our criminal justice system into the 21st century.”

“Code for America’s partnership with Cook County expands our Clear My Record program to a second state and further proves that justice can happen at the scale and speed we know is possible in the digital age,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director, Code for America.

“Thanks to the leadership of State’s Attorney Foxx, we’ll provide conviction relief expeditiously, at reduced cost, and in bulk in Illinois, and help tens of thousands of individuals get a fresh start. And we’ll continue to show that government can work as it should for all people, when we bring government into the 21st century.”

Illinois recently legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana and created an opt-in process for the Illinois Attorney General and State’s Attorneys to clear convictions in their jurisdictions.

Now, State’s Attorneys can receive a list of eligible convictions from the Illinois State Police to review and grant relief by submitting those eligible convictions to the courts for final approval.

With the aid of Code for America’s Clear My Record technology, an office can automatically and securely evaluate eligibility for record clearance by reading and interpreting conviction data in just a few minutes. This requires no action on the part of the individual and greatly reduces staff time and resources — two obstacles to record clearance.

Streamlining conviction data processing also will make it easier for courts to update records, ensuring that individuals can obtain relief as soon as possible.

By rethinking the clearance process from top to bottom and using digital tools to examine criminal record data, this partnership will create a statewide technology and policy blueprint in Illinois.

This partnership demonstrates a growing momentum for automatic record clearance across the nation. It builds on recent announcements that Code for America’s Clear My Record technology is helping counties in California dismiss and seal more than approximately 75,000 cannabis convictions.

Once this pilot is completed, Cook County will share its findings with the state and other Illinois counties.

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