Attorneys met with hundreds of people with criminal records at the Second Chance summit at the Nordloff Center on Saturday, as the formerly convicted were hoping to get their records expunged or their names cleared.
“It’s a big issue in this community, that people who moved on with their lives and are doing the right things, but they can’t get a job, they can’t get that job interview, they can’t get housing…because they have that past discretion, and it’s unfortunate,” said Sen. State Stadelman (D-Rockford), who organized the event.
One by one, those who were eligible were handed folders and met with an attorney.
Attorney Paul Vella said, “For sealing or expunging [crimes], it will lift that barrier so that you are able to do what you want to do. It will clean up your record so when they are doing your background checks… I don’t want to say it will hide things, but you won’t be able to see it. So, it will open more opportunities for you.”
Formerly convicted felon Kristina Disluke said that she had been charged for a crime she didn’t commit. But, because the incident happened in her home, responsibility fell on her.
“Any apartment that I’ve applied for, they knew I had a felony,” she said. “I’ve had to explain it. Any job I’ve applied for, they knew I had a felony, and I’ve had to explain it.
“For me to have something like that attached to me for over 20 years, it’s really nice to have this, so that you are able to at least have an opportunity to have your particular file or case looked at to have it removed,” Disluke continued.
She said having to go through the process gives her perspective and hopes people thing before acting, to avoid running into the law.
“You’ve got to be aware of the people you’re around and you’re with and the things that you’re doing, because one wrong move, or one wrong friend, can follow you the rest of your life,” Disluke said.
Organizers say they’re planning on holding another summit soon.