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CHICAGO – Felony convictions for prostitution would be expunged under a measure introduced by State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) as part of an effort to reduce the stigma that follows those with felonies on their record even as prostitution is no longer charged as a felony in Illinois.

“By criminalizing prostitution, we have succeeded only in driving those who have become victims of it into the shadows,” Collins said. “We moved to stop charging prostitution as a felony, but that means nothing for those who have felonies on their records.”

Felony charges can be a significant barrier to finding housing or gainful employment, which only adds further injury to sex workers. Felony prostitution charges were ended in Illinois in 2013, but those with such convictions are still subject to all the penalties that come with a felony record.

“To allow felony charges to persist for sex workers is to send the message that they are akin to armed robbers or kidnappers. This, in turn, makes the business even more dangerous and exploitative,” Collins said. “We must begin a new chapter in how we address sex work, starting with expunging these records.”

The legislation would also remove a drug testing requirement for those seeking to seal records of their felony drug convictions.

“Requiring a drug test to expunge a felony record is wrongheaded, irrelevant, and in light of the recent legalization of cannabis for adult use, nonsensical,” Collins said.

The legislation is Senate Bill 2136. Having passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday, it awaits consideration before the full Senate.