Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
  Cook County is the second most populous county in the nation. It is the 19th largest government in the U.S.
   
     
     
     



Ex-offenders deserve chance to find different paths

Sunday, August 07, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by MARY MITCHELL SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

When George Jones applied for a job with Total Facility Maintenance Co. three years ago, he answered "No" to the question: Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

That was a lie.

Like most ex-offenders, Jones rationalized his lie. After all, it wasn't like he had killed someone. He had two cases: one for possessing marijuana that was thrown out, and one for possessing heroin, for which he was given probation. Both cases happened more than two decades ago.

Since then, Jones, 66, hasn't been charged with any crimes.

But two weeks ago, he was fired from his janitorial job at Chicago Public Schools after a background check uncovered the old charges. On Thursday, Jones went to a hearing with CPS officials to plead his case. It didn't do any good.

Fired over false info on job application

"It was just a bunch of s - - -," Jones told me. "I'm sorry for using that language, but it might as well have been no hearing."

Jones was one of about 20 people who were fired by a private company that provides janitorial services to hundreds of public schools when new background checks revealed the workers lied about criminal charges. According to a CPS spokesman, the workers were terminated because they falsified their job applications.

"It happened 26 years ago," Jones explained to me. "One case was thrown out, and I got probation for the other. But I said no [on the application]. I made a mistake years ago, and I'm continuing to be punished for it."

Jones said he offered to prove he had changed his life, but it didn't help.

"I told them I'll take a drop right now," he said. "Every one of the people who went to the hearing didn't get their jobs back. Basically, you didn't need a hearing."

Catch-22

I don't expect the Board of Education to change its policy, mainly because we are talking about a work environment that involves children. And it's much easier for this bureaucracy to issue a blanket edict than it is for its administrators to evaluate these fired employees on a case-by-case basis.

Still, common sense should tell us that ex-offenders can't start a new life if they are going to be dogged by their criminal past. At the very least, ex-offenders who have served their time should have the chance to hold onto a low-wage job.

Where is our compassion?

Most of us should understand why people like Jones would answer "No" when a potential employer asks if they've ever been convicted of a crime. But we've put ex-offenders in a Catch-22. You know if an ex-convict answers "Yes" there's a good chance the application would end up in the trash.

Given that tens of thousands of people are expected to get out of prison and return to Chicago neighborhoods, we can either make it easy for them to transition back into the community by at least letting them have gainful employment or face the consequences.

Records can be expunged

What are the consequences?

More idle men standing on the corners looking for a handout or selling drugs. More domestic violence as frustrated, broke and unemployed people crack under the stress. More crime.

I believe a lot of people can see that shackling a person to a messed-up past is cruel. Still, few people are willing to speak out publicly about the unfairness posed by this social policy. Even people at the Chicago Public Schools who are outraged over the firings are afraid to say anything publicly to support these workers.

So it is up to ex-offenders to change the game.

Jones acknowledged that he was unaware that he was eligible to have his criminal records expunged.

Illinois legislators, especially state Rep. Constance A. Howard (D-Chicago) worked diligently to pass a law that would allow certain arrests, supervisions and convictions to be expunged or sealed. People who were convicted of minor drug possession cases in the state of Illinois can have their slates wiped clean.

Law could change lives

Under the new law that went into effect on June 1, anyone who wants to have a Class 4 felony drug possession case sealed can do so by petitioning the court and passing a drug test. Obviously, this is a law that could help thousands of ex-offenders change their lives.

But it can't help ex-convicts if they don't use it. To find out which convictions can be expunged or sealed, go to www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org. The clerk's site lists everything you will need to expunge or seal criminal records, including the cost for filing forms ($60). Ex-offenders who don't have access to the Internet can get the forms needed for expungement by going to the Cook County Circuit Clerk of the Court, Richard J. Daley Center, Room 1001, 50 W. Washington.

Frankly, ex-offenders can't expect a lot of sympathy from a public that is fed up with crime. But armed with this new law, ex-offenders don't have to let a shady past put them back on a path to a dark future.



Recent Headlines

Juvenile Offenders to Receive 24 Hour Monitoring
Friday, September 19, 2014
NBC 5

Critics: Juvenile Offender Monitoring Needs Overhaul In Wake Of Roseland Rape
Thursday, September 18, 2014
CBS 2

Grants to help Juvenile Court offenders
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
nwitimes.com

County Seeks Ideas for Old Cook County Hospital Redevelopment
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
DNAinfo

City backing bid for County tax break
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Pioneer Press

Probation officer suspended after teenís assault on CSU student
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Probation Officer For Teen Charged With Assaulting CSU Student Suspended
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
CBS local

Thousands charged with drug possession walk free, leaving taxpayers with the tab
Sunday, September 14, 2014
The Chicago Reporter

New Hiking-Biking Trail Links Botanic Garden And Forest Preserve
Saturday, September 13, 2014
CBS Chicago

Lobbyists banned from doing business at County Board meetings
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Chief Judge Evans names blue ribbon committee to help him select new director for juvenile detention center
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Special to suffredin.org

Cook County Board pays tribute to JRW Little Leagures
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
nwi.com

More insured patients than uninsured at Cook County health system
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago, Cook County get part of $2 million Justice grants
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Daily Herald

Pet shops sue to stop Cook County 'puppy mill' law
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Probationer says he was pressured to be FBI informant
Thursday, September 04, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Keeping Ďfree mení jailed may be costly
Thursday, September 04, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Judge certifies class in suit against Dart
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Feds: Former Cook County employee stole $300K from flood grant
Friday, August 29, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Third annual FPCC photo contest
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Special to suffredin.org

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP