On February 25th during Chicago OpenGov Hack Night, Cathy Deng talked about Expunge.io, a guide to help youth in Cook County erase their juvenile arrest and/or court records through the legal process of juvenile expungement.
Deng started off by talking about what expungement is and why it’s important. Expungement is the process of removing information from a criminal record. In Illinois, if you are arrested, that information stays on your record even if the case never goes to trial. There are thousands of Illinois youth who are arrested and a large percentage never go through the expungement process despite their eligibility.
In Illinois, there are several pro-bono groups that can help with juvenile record expungement including the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. However, not many people take advantage of the service. Expunge.io helps with this by first determing if they are eligible for expungement and then connecting them with legal aid.
The launch of Expunge.io by Cathy Deng and the Mikva Challenge Juvenile Justice Council (JJC) is a prime example of technologists and subject matter experts coming together. For Smart Chicago, it grew naturally out of work we did over our CivicSummer, interacting with youth on the JJC about what interested them, where their research took them, and what issues mattered most to them. Deng worked with both Mikva Challenge and the Legal Assistance Foundation to build the site that matched the challenges and needs of both groups.
There were several key takeaways in doing this project, one of which is that civic hacking is not just about coding or data. In fact, Expunge.io doesn’t use any data set from the city, county, or federal goverment.
Another key takeaway is that solutions don’t need to be fancy to be effective. The code behind Expunge.io takes advantage of Twitter bootstrap and is an example of a very lightweight app. What makes this app special isn’t the code, but rather the cross-pollination of diverse organizations.
And as always, Deng stuck around to answer questions from hack night attendees.
You can find out more about Expunge.io at the Expunge.io website. If you’re interesting in using Expunge.io for your state, please feel free to get in touch!