April is Second Chance Month
One of the several reforms that are needed to the criminal justice system is the opportunity for those individuals with a criminal record to successfully reenter and remove collateral consequences of a conviction. Attorney Baku Patel has long been a strong supporter and advocate to expand Second Chance programs to include expanding expungement eligibility and record sealing, easing restrictions to obtain certain occupational licenses, and removing barriers from those who served a period of incarceration to renter the workforce. One study estimated that around 77.7 million individuals (almost one-third (1/3) of the entire U.S. adult population) has a criminal record. Many of them caught up in the unsuccessful “War on Crime” initiative that resulted in many people obtaining felony convictions for low level possession of drugs. These were non-violent offenses where millions of addicts in need of treatment and rehabilitation ended up with a permanent felony record. The collateral consequences of such convictions for low level offenses, including drug possession, retail theft, property damage offenses, etc., effects employment, housing, education, public benefits, credit and loans, immigration status, parental rights, interstate travel, and many other rights and opportunities. These obstacles to one’s ability to re-enter society are the most serious punishment by labeling a person as a second-class citizen. Even an arrest can lead to negative consequences affecting many rights.
Criminal Attorney Baku Patel has spent over two decades defending those accused of crimes, thus he can relate to how a conviction alone, after successfully completing probation or even incarceration, can affect a person’s ability to reenter society. Educational and employment opportunities evaporate or become near impossible to obtain. Therefore, he has always supported efforts to expand the number of offenses that qualify for expungement and sealing. Illinois has adopted a program called “Second Chance Probation” which allows courts the option to sentence a first-time, non-violent offender to probation without having a felony conviction on their record. However, it is limited to lower level offenses and does not allow those prior to this law passing to expunge their records. This law should be expanded to include all forms of non-violent offenses and to retroactively allow those who have such convictions in the past to expunge their records.
One positive step toward adopting such changes is to spotlight the issue. Recognizing an entire month toward this nationwide effort to raise awareness is a very critical and important step toward achieving this goal.
If you have a felony conviction on your record, checkout the Case Results