Did you know an estimated 3.9 million people* in Illinois have a criminal record and routinely face formidable challenges and barriers in finding a job, enrolling in school, and securing decent and affordable housing? 

Responding to these challenges, Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) and the Living Word Christian Center (LWCC) Prison Ministry joined forces to co-sponsor the Know Your Rights Presentation & Job Fair, on Oct. 30. CGLA’s mission is: “to answer God’s call to seek justice and mercy for those living in poverty by providing legal services that strengthen lives, families, and communities.” 

During the presentation, CGLA legal experts answered job-seekers’ questions on background checks, handling interview questions, how to discuss sealed, expunged and active criminal records, as well as providing solutions and strategies for addressing and resolving the housing and education challenges associated with having a criminal record. 

Other issues that often affect a job-seeker with a criminal record are the emotional and social stresses resulting from repeated employment rejections and housing denials. Discouraged, many people simply give up their pursuit of a new chance at life. So what is the best way to handle discouragement?

Minister Kevin Coleman and Pastor James Glaspie, who head the LWCC Prison Ministry, believe it’s important to constantly encourage and empower anyone who’s discouraged and disheartened with the message that “God is faithful and He is good. He’s not up in heaven waiting to strike you when you’re down.”

“No matter what things look like today,” said Minister Coleman, “the biggest challenge is not to give in to despair and discouragement. Regardless of how many no’s you may encounter, stay encouraged and believe that your ‘yes’ is coming.” 

It’s a constant message of reassurance that Minister Coleman and Pastor Glaspie share with the men and women going through difficult times while searching for a job, finding housing or reconciling with their families. They also emphasize the importance of being around positive people and seeking support and counsel when it’s needed.

“When Pastor Glaspie and I counsel ex-offenders or minister to those in correctional facilities, we always tell them, ‘God loves and cares for you and has plans for your future. Just believe in and rely on the power of God’s word and his love, to give you the strength to go through these trying times. Live by faith, and not by what it looks like right now,'” said Coleman.

Some of the companies that participated in the recent job fair included: Men’s Warehouse, Jiffy Lube, Elite Staffing and Home Depot. Job seekers were also given information about 600 soon-to-be-available jobs in Burr Ridge. 

The CGLA website is another resource for job-seekers with a criminal record. It lists many options on how to secure employment with a criminal record, including a “criminal records program” that assists individuals in clearing their arrest and conviction records through legal remedies, e.g. expungement, sealing, clemency, health-care waivers, certificate of good conduct, and certificates of relief from disability.

For more information or help, please contact the agencies listed below: 

 Cabrini Green Legal Aid www.cgla.net

 CGLA Expungement Help Desk, located in room 1006 at Daley Center, 312-850-4783

 Illinois Legal Aid Online www.illinoislegalaid.org

 IDES/Chicago Jobs Council website: Workforce Resources for those who assist ex-offenders at www.ides.state.il.us/exoffenders

 Living Word Christian Center Prison Ministry at 773-622-5701; www.livingwd.org/lwcc-prison

*Source: Cabrini Green Legal Aid.net/criminal-records

Kim Clay

Communications director

Living Word Christian Center