How CP4P Justice Corps of the Legal Aid Society Helped This Violence Interrupter Clean Up His Criminal Background
The Communities Partnering for Peace (CP4P) Justice Corps of the Legal Aid Society (LAS) supports the Metropolitan Peace Initiatives by providing civil legal services in Chicago neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence. These free and community-based services include but are not limited to: criminal and cannabis expungement/sealing, landlord/tenant rights, immigration and human trafficking, employment, and domestic relations.
“Memo” is well known in his community as a violence interrupter and non-violence advocate. When there is a shooting in the area, Memo and his team are the first called to manage the crisis. He is a trusted and respected person in the community because of the work he has done to combat gang violence.
Once a gang member and drug user himself, Memo had a long RAP sheet and knows all too well how gang violence can derail someone’s life. Now, Memo has been sober and out of trouble for years and has been working with non-violence groups around Chicago, building his reputation as an invaluable member of the community.
So trusted in the community, Memo was called by the local high school to lead non-violence programming. However, due to his background, Memo was not allowed on campus to conduct the programs.
He said it was the most ashamed of himself and his past that he has ever been.
Memo and his team knew it was time that he finally got his record cleared so that he can move on from the person he was in the past and continue to do good work in the community. Memo engaged the CP4P Justice Corps of the LAS to clean up his criminal background.
When Memo’s Expungement and Sealing Petitions were up for hearing, the judges wanted to discuss every single arrest – whether he was charged or not – on his record. Memo’s arrests were non-violent offenses that happened 20 to 30 years ago. Yet the judge would not budge on their request to examine the police records.
When LAS came back to hearing having researched each police interaction card and arrest report, our attorneys were able to advocate strongly for Memo’s current character and behavior, along with his importance in the non-violence community.
Two of his supervisors, despite their busy schedules, sat on the hearing call for more than two hours just so they could speak on Memo’s behalf. Additionally, LAS submitted a lengthy 60-plus page mitigation full of letters of support and proof of the work Memo has done in the community.
After a long hearing in which Memo’s past mistakes were meticulously examined, the judge was deeply moved and Memo’s Petition to Expunge and Seal his criminal records was granted.
Memo can now go on to further expand the non-violence work he is doing, especially with the youth who are in most need of guidance.
Written by Sonny R. Thatch II, Managing Attorney of the Communities Partnering for Peace Justice Corps of the Legal Aid Society