ISBA Bar News

August 2008

Cabrini Green Legal Clinic assists criminal defendants

A criminal justice program, through which the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic represents low-income clients who face charges, has received a $15,000 grant from the Illinois Bar Foundation.

Executive director Robert B. Acton explained to the foundation board that the program consists of three main activities.

1. Providing representation to eligible individuals who become criminal defendants.

2. Helping ex-offenders to clear arrest or conviction records.

3. Maintaining a high-volume expungement help desk at the Richard J. Daley Center, which assists some 3,000 people annually.

"Each of these activities involves providing legal assistance to poor and disadvantaged people, encourages pro bono legal work, and reduces recidivism of juvenile and adult offenders," Acton said.

Additionally, the help desk makes the court system more accessible and transparent to the public.

Acton noted that Cabrini Green is a statewide leader in the clearing of arrest and conviction records, and stands at the forefront of both service delivery and ongoing policy efforts.

"Our ability to provide intensive involvement with our clients, and to connect them to our staff social worker and community resources, means that we can more effectively use a not-guilty verdict or plea bargain to create long-term impact," he said.

Founded 35 years ago as a grassroots organization serving residents of the Cabrini Green Housing Projects and Near North area of Chicago, the clinic initially provided general legal services.

In 1997, as the population of Cabrini Green decreased, the geographic boundaries were expanded and the scope of service narrowed to the underserved areas of family, housing and criminal law.

The stated mission of the legal aid clinic since its inception has been "to answer God's call to seek justice and mercy by providing legal services to the poorest of the poor."

Cabrini Green will hold its annual benefit dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 24, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Chicago. Call (312) 266-1345 for details.