News Local/State

Illinois Commission Wants Tighter Law On Sharing Juvenile Criminal Records


A youthful mistake could be a burden for life, according to a study released Thursday by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

The study asserts that sharing juvenile records are preventing Illinois residents from opportunities such as getting a job or finding housing.

Julie Biehl, director of the Children and Family Justice Center at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, said sharing of a minor's criminal record is common practice. It's even common among people who know it's against the law.

"Despite the devastating harm caused to young people by the illegal sharing or unlawful sharing of records, Illinois does not punish people who illegally share juvenile records," she said.

But it's not just unlawful sharing that's the problem. Commission members say lawmakers need to change current state law because it allows too much legal sharing of private information.

Retired judge George Timberlake, who heads the juvenile justice commission, said youths can't move on when records are shared either legally or illegally with schools, landlords and employers. He said keeping court records secret allows a minor to enter adulthood with a clean slate.

"This is more than just a legislative or judicial issue," he said. "It's a human issue that the whole country understands now."

Adults can get some juvenile records destroyed. But some employers, such as law enforcement, the military, or private companies, can still look at them. Records of cases involving first degree murder and serious sex offenses aren't eligible to be destroyed.