the model of incompetent and inefficient government
One would hope that Kim Foxx would put as much time into trying to avert the killing of 6 or 7 people this coming weekend. What about the shooting of 30 or 40 people this coming weekend? Does she even give it a thought?
By Tom Schuba Updated Aug 27, 2019, 10:28am CDT
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announces her pot expungement plan Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced plans Tuesday to team with a San Francisco-based
nonprofit to erase “tens of thousands” of minor cannabis convictions in Cook County, making good on a plan she’s hinted at for months.
Foxx’s move to partner with Code for America, which has worked to identify similar convictions in a handful of counties in California, comes just over two months after lawmakers in Springfield voted to legalize marijuana statewide.
“When it was time to, in essence, flip the switch, we didn’t want to be like other jurisdictions who were months and years out, trying to figure out how to provide relief,” said Foxx, who first vowed in January to expunge misdemeanor pot convictions.
Illinois’ sweeping expungement plan was part of state lawmakers’ push to use the cannabis legislation to emphasize social justice and attempt to address the negative effects of past drug policies.
State’s attorneys and the Illinois attorney general can opt-in to clear convictions in their jurisdictions. Those state’s attorneys will “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,” according to Foxx’s office.
Cook County will be able to vacate cases itself and not have to go through Prisoner Review Board, Foxx’s office said.
Officials estimate roughly 770,000 pot convictions are eligible for expungement in Illinois. While Foxx hopes to begin the process in Cook County when the pot law goes into effect, Code for America hasn’t started identifying specific cases and it’s unclear exactly how many of those convictions stem from Cook County.
“Obviously we’re marrying what we’re trying to do here first, in the Cook County policy that was then codified in the state law, with technology and innovation,” said Foxx.
Cook County convictions — as well as arrests, charges and orders of supervision or qualified probation — of amounts under the new legal limit will be eligible for expungement, as long as a year has passed since the offense happened. Once a record has been wiped clean, the Cook County clerk’s office will mail a notice to the individual’s last known address.
The most recent records will be addressed first. Cases from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2020, will be expunged by 2021, while cases from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2012, will be cleared by 2023. Any cases from before Jan. 1, 2000, will be expunged by 2025.
Cannabis offenses that are coupled with other offenses or charges aren’t eligible for automatic expungement, Foxx’s office said. Individuals will, however, be able to petition the clerk to have them wiped clean.
Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America’s founder and executive director, said the nonprofit will will be able to run software that reads criminal records, determines which cases are eligible for expungement and automatically completes forms to be filed with the courts.
“To be able to look at this amount [of convictions] … would require a lot of personnel time and technology, for which we’ve had restraints here in Cook County. The innovation that [Code for America brings] to this work by being able to easily process this information, identify eligibility, populate forms with that information and generate the necessary documents will allow us to provide conviction relief, we think, in a really timely fashion,” Foxx noted.
So far, the software has been used to identify at least 67,000 convictions in four California counties, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, according to Code for America. After a final county is brought into the pilot program, Code for America will release an open source toolkit that will help California’s 53 other counties expunge their own convictions.
“We hope it’s part of a larger agenda that gets people to challenge the conventional thinking about how our government can work,” Pahlka said.
Foxx said Code for America was offering its services at no cost to the county, but taxpayers will have to foot the bill for mailing the notifications and other administrative costs.
“In weighing the benefits of this — the ability for people who can have their records vacated and expunged to be able to find employment and housing and other things that will allow them to be contributing, taxpaying members of Cook County — is pretty significant,” Foxx said.