The Land of Lincoln is near the bottom of the pack when it comes to erasing juvenile criminal records.

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission says the state’s system of expunging juvenile criminal records is not working.

A new commission report says state law makes it difficult to erase a young person’s record.

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Carolyn Frazier said problems arise when young people try to get educated and find housing and jobs. But it doesn’t stop there. Frazier said she has seen barriers for young people trying to get a firearm owners identification card, obtain permanent citizenship or even travel abroad.

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“A youth who was trying to travel to Canada was barred at the border because he had a record that was punishable as a felony in Illinois,” Frazier said.

Despite popular belief, youth criminal records are not confidential, the commission reports. These records are shared with up to 30 different organizations and in some cases, the general public. Weak rules about who has access to records also lead to files being shared illegally.

Julie Biehl from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law said nobody gets in trouble.

“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,” Biehl said. 

The commission says only 12 other states have weaker expungement limits than Illinois.

Between 2004 and 2014, the commission says only 0.33 percent of juvenile records were expunged statewide. Part of that is because of the confusing process and high cost. Expunging one record can cost up to $320. 

To fix the problem, the commission says Illinois should enhance confidentiality protections and increase access to expungement for juvenile criminal records.

(Copyright WBGZ /