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Cook County, Ill., Looks to CfA to Expunge Pot Convictions

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told local media that she hopes to start expunging minor cannabis convictions soon, noting that the nonprofit civic tech group Code for America might be able to help.

by / April 16, 2019

Cook County, Ill., which is home to Chicago, might be the next jurisdiction to work with Code for America on automatically expunging cannabis convictions, at least if State’s Attorney Kim Foxx gets her way.

Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times this week that she is on track to start clearing thousands of minor cannabis convictions in the months to come. Her office, however, is still working on the best way to accomplish that mission. Part of that work involves potentially enlisting the nonprofit and nonpartisan civic tech group, Code for America (CfA), to help. Foxx told the newspaper that CfA could potentially provide infrastructure support, helping to identify batches of individuals who might have minor past convictions cleared.

As of now, though, no formal agreement has been made between Foxx’s office and CfA. Foxx, however, estimates that thousands of convictions might be cleared as a result of this work, and there’s certainly precedent to suggest she’s right.

In fact, earlier this year CfA announced that it had partnered with local government and court officials in California’s Los Angeles and San Joaquin counties to clear upward of 54,000 similar pot convictions, following prior work it did with San Francisco to clear more than 8,000 convictions there. Those California clearances came after voters in that state legalized recreational marijuana.

What Code for America did was create an algorithm that could identify in seconds individuals with convictions eligible to be cleared, subsequently doing so. This saved both residents and public servants from having to engage in lengthy and time-consuming expungement processes.

The situation in Cook County is a little different. Foxx’s office has for years now not pursued minor marijuana convictions, and in talking with the newspaper, she describe the automatic expungement of past convictions as a means of emphasizing that point. CfA’s past work in California suggests it could certainly help the state’s attorney do that.

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