We're doing something unprecedented here at Shaw Media Illinois, in the name of service to our readers. Starting today, we have an online portal for people to have their named removed from the police reports if their records have been expunged.
A poor decision or an arrest can follow you long after you've paid your debt to society.
We've heard from readers about how they made a poor choice years earlier, which led to their arrest, which then ended up in their local newspaper's police reports.
Years later, they find themselves applying for a job, signing a housing contract, or their students are searching for their teacher's name online, and there it is — a report of an arrest from five, 10 or 15 years ago.
The public records from which our police reports are compiled are newsworthy for a variety of reasons. But there are cases where people have gone to great lengths to ensure their past rightfully stays in their past, including by having the case expunged — or erased from the public record.
It's understandable that a person would be frustrated if the reports about their arrest remain online even after their arrest record has been expunged.
Next year is expected to bring tidal wave of expungements. Effective Jan. 1, arrests and convictions for simple possession of marijuana (less than 30 grams, or about an ounce) will be expunged in the state of Illinois.
Police records will be destroyed, and court records will be hidden from public view, removing the arrest from the public record. As many as 700,000 cases will be eligible for expungement under the new law.
Those whose arrest records are expunged will receive a letter — to their last known address — from the court to notify them.
If your name appears in a police report on one of our newspapers' websites and your record has been expunged, we want to help you remove it. To do that, Shaw Media Illinois has created an online form so the name can be removed.
If you have documentation of an expungement, head to shawmediaillinois.com/expungement to fill out our form, and we will do our best to remove it within 10 business days.
Please note that this applies only to cases where records have been expunged — not those in which a person pleaded guilty and received supervision, probation or any other sentence.
Also, once a story has been removed from our website, it takes time and is out of our hands on when it is re-indexed by search engines and web companies like Google. We will submit pages to Google for re-indexing upon request, but it's up to those web companies to actually re-index the page.
Our main mission at Shaw Media Illinois is to serve the communities where we live and work. A minor crime that's been expunged shouldn't stop you from being a full-fledged member of that community.
Note to readers: John Sahly is managing editor - digital for Shaw Media Illinois.