Judicial Redemption

Darrell Langdon, convicted of a felony more than two decades ago, went before a judge and received a Certificate of Good Conduct. CPS said it wasn’t good enough for a job. (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / July 19, 2010)

Darrell Langdon made a mistake more than two decades ago. A Cook County judge believes Langdon deserves a second chance. Until Monday, Chicago Public Schools officials didn’t – but, in response to my questions, they’re taking a second look.

In 1985, Langdon was convicted of possessing a half gram of cocaine. Though the amount qualified as a felony, he only had to serve six months of probation and pay a $100 fine. At the time, Langdon had been employed by CPS for four years as a boiler room fireman, a job he was allowed to keep after his conviction. . . .

Last year, the Safer Foundation, which helps people with criminal records find employment, led the charge for an expansion of the pool of offenses eligible for a court-granted Certificate of Good Conduct, which vouches for a person’s rehabilitation, lifting a barrier to employment.

Under the newly revised law, people with lower-grade felonies – including forcible felonies that did not result in great bodily harm or permanent disability – can petition the court for the certificate, which can then be used in applying for jobs, though the employer has final say.

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