JWCC and Land of Lincoln Legal Aid hosting free Legal Clinic to help employment access

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QUINCY — To help area citizens gain access to education and employment opportunities, Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, Lawyers for Learners and John Wood Community College are hosting a free legal clinic for expungement and/or sealing of criminal records.

The legal clinic will take place Wednesday, March 8, from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., at John Wood Community College’s Quincy campus at 48th & Harrison.

At the event, Land of Lincoln attorneys, volunteer attorneys, and paralegals will meet with applicants to help them prepare petitions to request to expunge and/or seal their Adams County criminal records. After petitions are prepared, participants must take them to the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s Office in the nearby Adams County Courthouse for filing.

Participants must register to attend. The registration deadline is February 24.

An expungement is a legal court order that destroys a criminal record and removes it from public view. Records that cannot be expunged because they resulted in convictions may be eligible to be sealed.  Sealing limits who has access to the records. It may be several months from when a petition for expungement and sealing is filed until a decision is made by a judge.

Daniel R. Kuehnert, a senior staff attorney with Land of Lincoln, said that criminal records often prevent people from landing a job or getting a higher paying job.

“The mistake you make at 18 years old shouldn’t prevent you from getting a job when you’re 40,” Kuehnert said. “A criminal record can be a major barrier in seeking employment, housing and education.” 

Kuehnert said it is more beneficial to society to allow citizens the opportunity to work and live productive lives than to be held back by youthful missteps resulting in an arrest or conviction. He said although Illinois law prevents a potential employer from asking someone if they’ve been arrested on a job application, as someone moves further into the process of being hired, a background check may still show the arrest.

“By clearing their criminal histories as much as possible, people are granted freedom to seek better opportunities to improve their lives,” he said.

“Once a person’s record is expunged they have more options,” Fuhrmann said.

Registration for the event is required. Visit https://linktr.ee/quincy.summit, email quincysummit@gmail.com, or call (618) 462-0029, ext. 3027 to sign up.

Throughout the upcoming weeks, Land of Lincoln staff will regularly check the website, email and voicemail, and follow up with interested individuals to see if they qualify for the event and register them.

Individuals who qualify will be given an appointment for a specific time to arrive at the event. Due to COVID-19 precautions, it is important that individuals only attend the event at the time of their appointment and do not attend if they do not have an appointment. Participants my be asked to wear masks during the event.

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