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Joliet church will host program on expunging records

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:29 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – St. John M. B. Church will host a program on how to expunge and seal criminal records on Monday.

The program has been organized by Pam Fort, who said she was inspired by a seminar on the topic that she attended while in graduate school at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

“So many people would get caught up in simple things and then not be able to find a job,” Fort said. “One of the ladies that attended school was smarter than all of us, but she couldn’t get into nursing school because she had a felony on her record.”

As a high school substitute teacher, Fort also knew certain kids went in and out of jail, ruining their chances for future employment. Something had to be done, she decided. So Fort arranged her own information nights, starting in 2004 with 20 attending. She now offers it twice a year, spring and fall.

The program on Monday will be at 5 p.m. in the church at 104 E. Zarley Road, Joliet. Those attending should bring copies of rap sheets. Records are available at the office of the Will County Circuit Clerk, 14 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.

For information, contact Pamela or Mary Fort at 815-207-4659 or maryfort@comcast.net.

During the event, people meet with a representative from the office of the state appellate defender and volunteering attorneys. They discuss the laws regarding expunging and sealing records, answer eligibility questions and assist with completing the necessary paperwork, if those individuals qualify, Fort said. The only cost is court fees.

“We’ve helped over 3,000 people in the last 12 years,” Fort said.

It could be an individual that worked 20 years for a plant, which then closes down, leaving that person out of work. When applying for a job, something comes up on the background – perhaps something the individual scarcely recalls, Fort said.

Or perhaps it’s a person that got into trouble as a teen and young adult, turned his life around and now is unemployed because he can’t pass the background check, Fort said.

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