By Karina Parada
ROCKFORD – About one in three Americans have at least one arrest on the books. Senator Steve Stadelman along with Prairie State Legal Services and United Way of Rock River Valley want to help those who have past transgressions to make a stride in employment and helping them support themselves and their families.
Stadelman announced his ‘Second Chance Summit’ at a press conference on Sunday. Local attorneys will volunteer at the free event to review applicant’s backgrounds to determine if they’re eligible for having their criminal records expunged or sealed.
“How are people going to turn their life around?” asked Stadelman. “If every time they apply for a job that record that happened maybe 10,15, 20 years ago prevents them from getting the job?”
Stadelman says the event to help the formerly incarcerated can potentially reduce crime in the long run. He says when former offenders struggle to find a job, they are more likely to break the law again.
“There have been studies that show that almost half of ex-offenders in the State of Illinois end up back in prison within three years of their release.”
Prairie State Legal Services managing attorney Kimberly Thielbar says their office tries to represent as many clients their resources allows them to. She hopes the summit can reach a wider net of those who want to change their lives around.
“We see many clients come through our doors who are just trying to support their families, support themselves.” said Thielbar. “Among the many barriers they face is having that criminal record in their background.”
David Black became a Prairie State volunteer lawyer after practicing law for nearly forty years. He says it’s best to offer a second chance to those who seek it.
“I’ve been in that partnership for a little over a year,” said Black. “I’ve already had 136 referrals from [Prairie State]. I say that to show the vast need in this community for this kind of a service.”
The Second Chance Summit will take place on Saturday June 16th at the Nordlof Center.
To register, click here.