An initiative in Illinois dubbed the “New Leaf Illinois” aims to help people arrested for cannabis crimes get their records expunged, the Peoria Journal Star reports. The initiative is funded by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF), an organization that grew out of a 1999 law that distributes state funds to “legal aid” efforts by non-profits and initiatives. The group consists of 20 nonprofits who will pass out funds set aside by Illinois’ 2019 cannabis legalization law.
According to the report, low-level offenses were automatically expunged when the law was passed but a petition is required to expunge more serious cannabis offenses. Leslie Corbett, IEJF’s Executive Director, says the group started the New Leaf Initiative with $1.6 million with another $1.46 million on the way for grant programs. IEJF believes there are over 700,000 Illinoisans who qualify for both automatic and petitioned expungement.
IEJF board member Gray Matteo-Harris said during a news conference last week announcing the initiative,
“These individuals may have a criminal record that could make it harder for them to actually get a job, advance their education, or even be able to rent an apartment. If you look at the data, Black and brown people and economically disadvantaged communities were disproportionately penalized by past criminalization. The expungement process is one step toward repairing that harm for people who were previously arrested or prosecuted for something that is now legal for all of us.” — Gray Matteo-Harris, in a statement
After contacting NLI, Illinoisans accessing the program can expect to be paired with a professional who will help them complete the process. Expungements are carried out “manually,” one record at a time, by the Illinois State Patrol, who expect the process to take up to five years. These expungements are in addition to pardons began earlier this year by the Governor.
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