More than 1,300 Illinois residents have taken first step to clearing records, thousands more still eligible
CHICAGO (November 15, 2021) – New Leaf Illinois, a five-year pilot program developed by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) that offers free cannabis expungement legal services and consultation through a network of 20 legal aid and advocacy organizations throughout the state, is celebrating its one-year anniversary. Since launching in November 2020 with state funding, more than 1,300 people have registered for services, so Illinois residents with prior cannabis arrests or convictions can take the
first step to clear their records.
Among those who have utilized New Leaf’s expungement services is Christopher from Springfield. Christopher worked with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, a member of the New Leaf network, to clear his decades-old cannabis conviction. Like others who pursue cannabis expungement, Christopher knew a clean record could make it easier to seek employment and with other aspects of his life.
“I felt like I was being singled out from others because I had a felony conviction,” Christopher said. “I just got my felony expunged this summer. Now I’m working, I’m providing for my family, so I’m happy. The sky’s the limit now.”
There are thousands more in Illinois who are eligible for cannabis expungement, but whose records won’t be cleared automatically. The Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimated there are
approximately 34,000 people in the state who must file an individual motion to vacate and expunge in the county where their record exists.
“There is a lot of confusion right now because some records are being cleared automatically and others are not,” said Beth Johnson, an attorney and Project Manager for New Leaf Illinois with the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation. “Some people will have their police record automatically expunged, but will still need help to have their court records cleared. The bottom line, for those who are confused about whether their complete cannabis record has already been cleared or not, New Leaf Illinois can help you evaluate your specific case.”
There are many benefits to cannabis expungement: people can apply for jobs without worrying about background checks, and expungement can remove barriers to higher education and housing. New Leaf has also made it a priority to extend services to disproportionately impacted Black and LatinX communities.
New Leaf Illinois legal staff help people determine their eligibility for relief through an easy-to-use online registration portal at www.newleafillinois.org or via phone at (855) 963-9532. Legal aid organizations within the New Leaf Illinois network provide free services in every region in Illinois when a person is eligible for relief.
New Leaf Illinois is a five-year pilot program funded through an appropriation from the Illinois General Assembly as part of the State’s commitment after legalizing cannabis to repair the harm caused to communities by decades of over-criminalization.
About Illinois Equal Justice Foundation
The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF), a 501 c 3 tax exempt organization, distributes funding appropriated by the State to support not-for-profit legal aid programs. IEJF funding directly helps families in crisis, victims of domestic violence, seniors facing abuse and financial exploitation, veterans, people facing housing instability and justice-involved individuals seeking a second chance. The IEJF supports innovative, cost-effective legal aid programs that empower clients to resolve legal issues and regain control of their lives. These programs offer legal information, advice, mediation, representation and tools to help clients understand the legal system and their rights within it.