Rap Sheet Day helps Chicagoans clear past offenses from their criminal records

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thursday is Rap Sheet Day in Chicago, a day where people with marijuana and other expungable offenses work to get their rap sheets cleared.

Sharon Smiley is one of those Chicagoans, desperately trying to get her life back on track.

"So I've lost my full time job trying to earn extra money working my part time job," she said. "So to this day, right now, I'm unemployed and no temp agencies even want to hire me because of my background."

Smiley lost her full time job after the company she worked for long-term ran a random background check and found a misdemeanor conviction for carrying a gun illegally. Smiley had the weapon while she worked nights alone at another job as a part-time bartender.

Prior to pleading guilty, she said she had no criminal record.

She's one of the dozens of people hoping to take advantage of the second chance offered at the Monroe Foundation through its Getting Cleared Chicago campaign's Rap sheet Day.

"We bring them together to educate them about what the sealing and expungement process is in Illinois," said Reverend Otis Monroe, the Monroe Foundation.

The event held at the Chicago Police Headquarters on 35th Street helps those eligible seal or expunge a criminal record.

Their first step is to get their rap sheet, fingerprints and a drug test, if required. There is no cost; the process is free.

"We've been working with the governor's office to make sure these types of events are happening," said Kelly Evans, Cresco Labs. "We want to support it financially any way we can."

In Illinois a 2012 law allows all misdemeanors and some felony convictions to qualify for sealing or expungement. Most offenses require a two or three year waiting period after completion of the sentence. DUIs, domestic battery, animal cruelty and any registrable felony offenses cannot be sealed or expunged.

"This is an impediment to people who need to work," said Mark Mitchell of Team Englewood. "Recidivism happens within a three year period. So the people that stay out three years, the Illinois Assembly said 'Let's give them a chance.'"

On June 1, many of the people at Thursday's event will head to this year's Second Chance Expungement Summit hosted by the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court at Westinghouse College Prep High School.
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