Prairie State Legal Services and State Lawmaker Offer Second Chances with Free Legal Assistance
State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) held his 2022 Second Chances Summit on May 20 at the Nordlof Center in downtown Rockford. More than 170 people attended for one-on-one meetings with volunteer attorneys for free legal assistance in preparing petitions to expunge or seal criminal records.
Prairie State Legal Services, Rockford Public Library and United Way of the Rock River Valley returned as event partners for a third year.
“I myself met with about 12 individuals,” said Rose Willette, staff attorney of Prairie State Legal Services’ Rockford office. “This was the second time I worked this event. The clients were very appreciative of our assistance. They all wanted to ‘tell their story’ of what their sealing/expungement would help them accomplish. Most individuals hoped to have access to better employment.”
“I did a lot of offense charting before the Summit, but it was wonderful to meet those names in person,” said Heather Skrip, staff attorney of Prairie State Legal Services’ Rockford office.
“One individual was so grateful for our assistance in helping her clear old felonies from her record that she cried and asked to hug me. This is such a great service to give people a new lease on life when it comes to expanded employment and housing opportunities.”
In addition to Prairie State Legal Services, other volunteer attorneys this year included retired Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Rosemary Collins, the first woman to serve on the local bench.
Stadelman organized the summit for a third year to help people who find that their past legal problems present long-term obstacles in finding jobs, housing or furthering their education.
Illinois allows people who fulfill certain requirements to request a judge remove charges from their record or hide them from public view.
A combined 300 people received free legal help at summits in 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the event from occurring in 2020 and 2021.