Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act

The Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act (HB 3817/SB 2021) has been introduced in the Illinois Legislature. The Act both strengthens confidentiality of juvenile records while improving the processes for expunging juvenile records. The Act would bring Illinois’ laws into line with the American Bar Association’s model guidelines on youth records.

Under the Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act, courts would automatically expunge the records of juvenile arrests that do not result in charges. Where findings of delinquency occur, records would be automatically expunged two years after the youth’s case is closed, provided there is no new finding of delinquency during that two-year period. In this manner, the bill facilitates the return of young people to their communities and helps clear the path for their futures.

The Bill also enhances confidentiality rules, establishing penalties for unlawful sharing of juvenile records (Class B misdemeanor resulting in a $1,000 fine, as well as any actual damages).

The proposed legislation is based upon the work of Child and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and the Juvenile Justice Commission. According to the Child and Family Justice Center, Illinois has generally done a poor job in expunging juvenile records, with half of our counties failing to grant a single juvenile expungement in the past decade. Furthermore, less than 0.29% of juvenile records (3 in 1,000) were expunged in Illinois due to procedural hurdles.

The provisions in the bill will greatly increase the rate of expungement for juvenile records in Illinois by removing procedural barriers and prioritizing expungement for youth who successfully leave the juvenile court system.

Our mission at Chicago Appleseed is to improve the quality of justice in Chicago and Cook County by promoting better court processes. This legislation does precisely that. We applaud the efforts of Child and Family Justice Center and the Juvenile Justice Commission and thank State Rep. Elaine Nekritz,  and State Sen. Michael Hastings, as well as Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle for support of this bill.