Project Off the Record
Since 2009, CFJC's attorneys have represented over 25 youth seeking to terminate their requirement to register as a juvenile sex offender. In addition to direct representation, CFJC has developed a comprehensive manual and sample pleadings to assist other pro bono advocates.
Take a look at a few of CFJC's client stories demonstrating the impact of registries on youth.
"Onarga raised me," says Nick, a former DCFS ward. Onarga is not a person. It's the residential treatment facility where he was placed after molesting a younger cousin at the age of 12 at his aunt's home. He lived there for years after being removed from his aunt's, and before that, his mother's house for being severely abused and neglected.
Nick was quickly added to the Illinois Sex Offender Registry. But despite his rough childhood, he thrived. After winning a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, he studied social work and hoped to work with young people. However, in Wisconsin, his record followed him, and he was added to their state sex offender registry.
When he graduated from Wisconsin, an evaluator found that he posed no risk to the community and CFJC students and attorney's successfully petitioned the court for him to be removed from the Illinois Sex Offender Registry. It was not clear what would happen in Wisconsin, and Nick feared he would have to flee the state. But with the aid of CFJC advocacy, Wisconsin honored the Illinois Court's order and removed him from the Wisconsin registry as well. Still, more than a year after he was removed from both registries, his name can be found on the sex offender list at the university. Nick's case demonstrates why it is imperative that juvenile offenders have access to legal representation to petition the court for removal from the state sex offender registry at the earliest possible opportunity.
A non-relative adopted Steven after he was removed from his home due to abuse. At around 12 years of age, he sexually acted out on two younger neighbors. He was adjudicated delinquent and added to the sex offender registry. He received extensive treatment.
Steven was a high-achieving student in high school, earning a college scholarship. His probation officer advised him that he did not need to notify universities on his applications of his delinquency adjudication because it was not criminal. But when Steven went to a private university, he was put on the sex offender registry. The school then brought disciplinary charges against him for submitting a false application due to not mentioning his delinquency adjudication. The university first removed him from student housing and then revoked his admission altogether.
With the aid of CFJC, he was removed the Illinois registry after being evaluated. However, though Illinois juvenile sex offenders have the opportunity for removal, whether their removal is honored by another state has so far been variable. This seriously limited Steven's options for attending colleges in different states.