Grant to help ex-cons show they’ve reformed

Aldermen on Evanston's Human Services Committee voted Monday night to provide $50,000 to fund a program designed to help at least 15 young residents with criminal histories obtain a certificate of rehabilitation.

The grant, to the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy would be paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

The year-long pilot program would cover legal and other costs necessary to obtain the certificates from the court system.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she was surprised that "potentially employable people have an enormous time and financial barrier to obtaining the rehabilitation certificate."

With a rehabilitation certificate, employers are much more likely to hire an ex felon who, without the certificate, may not be eligible for the position, said Moran Center Executive Director Kathy Lyons.

To receive the certificate from a judge, a person must demonstrate support from community members, sponsors and potential employers that "they have overcome whatever legal challenges mar their record," Lyons said.

She said the process includes nearly the same amount of legal documentation and background work required for a petition for pardon from the governor.

Though she said the center cannot guarantee that a judge will grant the certificate, she said the individuals involved in the program will "have the absolute best chance of having them approved that anyone does."

The program is targeted at people who cannot seal or expunge whatever happens to be on their past criminal record, Lyons said.

"Because they can't clear their record, 25 years later they still can't get a job because of perhaps some youthful indiscretion when they were 18 or 19," she said.

Lyons said the center will offer the program to at least 15 people, but will try to provide services to as many individuals during the year-long span of the pilot program as possible.

The grant still requires approval of the full nine-member City Council, but the five aldermen present for the committee meeting all voted for it.

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