There are signs that an improved economy is gaining steam, yet data shows that ex-offenders is one group that is benefiting the least from increased job opportunities. More than 240,000 unemployed ex-offenders were living in Cook County in 2013, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). For individuals with criminal records, trying to find employment can seem like an impossible task. To help alleviate this difficulty, last year the Clerk’s Office added the “Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar” component to our Expungement Summit event.
This Saturday, June 7, 2014, the Clerk’s Office presents its 10th Annual full-service Adult & Juvenile Expungement Summit & Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar at Living Word Christian Center (LWCC), 7600 W. Roosevelt Road, Forest Park, IL. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and doors close at 6:00 p.m. This full-day, activity-packed summit offers attendees much of the practical information and services necessary for them to turn their lives around.
The primary goals of the Clerk’s Office’s Expungement Summit are to increase public awareness of expungement/sealing processes, provide individuals with free legal advice, and equip ex-offenders with not only job leads but also with knowledge about how to become employable members of society.
The Expungement Summit’s Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar is designed to help individuals learn how to develop the skills necessary to compete in today’s job market. For example, there will be instructions on preparing for a job interview, workplace etiquette, dressing for success, and how to conduct job searches. Additionally, interested persons will be provided information about various companies that have apprenticeship programs, as well as, those businesses that hire ex-offenders.
This year, our Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar will feature workshops presented by the Living Word Christian Center’s Joseph Business School specifically on setting achievable goals, job hunting, resume writing, education enhancement, small business development, and computer training, among other topics. The City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services will conduct job-readiness training, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security will introduce guidelines on overcoming barriers to employment for ex-offenders. Additionally, a representative from Veteran’s Affairs will discuss psychological counseling, housing and health services that are available for veterans.
Dismally low employment of ex-offenders is a nationwide problem. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, each year more than 650,000 men and women are released from federal and state prisons, and the unemployment rate among this group is an alarming 25-40 percent.
When ex-offenders cannot find jobs, the temptation to resort to illegal activities to make money is significantly increased. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between high unemployment among ex-offenders and high rates of recidivism, which contributes to a continual downward spiral in the lives of people who have criminal records.
Yet, many people may be helped by attending the Expungement Summit’s Job Information Seminar regardless of their criminal backgrounds or whether they qualify to get their criminal records expunged or sealed. They will be exposed to vast resources, which, utilized correctly, may enable these individuals to generate living wages to provide for themselves and their families.
An extensive list of 200 national and local companies that hire ex-offenders, such as: City of Chicago, Wal-Mart, Petco and Jewel-Osco, will be disseminated to all attendees at the Expungement Summit. In addition, a facilitator from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Career Development Program will provide information on its ex-offender job apprenticeships. On site education-related exhibitors will include: Computer Training Institute of Chicago, Illinois Paralegal Association, Liberty High School for Adults, and Northwest Suburban College. Also, a Safer Foundation representative will discuss the GED preparation classes offered through its PACE (Programmed Activities for Correctional Education) Institute.
It seems as though the cards are stacked against people who have criminal records even after they have made amends for their offenses. The feeling of being rejected by society can be enough to send some of these individuals back to illegal activities because they cannot support themselves or provide for their families. However, I encourage everyone who is struggling with employability to attend the Clerk’s Office’s Expungement Summit & Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar on Saturday, June 7, to access free, readily available, and highly valuable information about successful job-hunting and business creation.
For more details about the Clerk’s Office’s 10th Annual Adult & Juvenile Expungement Summit & Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar at Living Word Christian Center, 7600 W. Roosevelt Road, Forest Park, IL, please call (312) 603-5200 or visit www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org.
Hon. Dorothy Brown is the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. For more information, visit www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like us on Facebook.com/cookcountyclerkofcourt. Follow us on Twitter@CourtClerkBrown.