top of page
FY23 CGLA Holiday Website Graphic.png

Aisha's Retrospective on Her First Year as Executive Director

December 17, 2022

As we head into the holidays and approach the new year, I wanted to share some thoughts about this past year of CGLA’s work removing barriers to equity, and share some of our plans for celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2023.


As my first year as Executive Director of CGLA comes to a close, I am still both humbled and overjoyed I was given the opportunity to help lead an organization with such a rich and important legacy, and one that has deeply impacted me both personally and professionally.


And what an amazing year it has been! It started off with our Board of Directors approving an updated Mission, Purpose, and Vision that better reflect how CGLA has grown to stand more in solidarity with the communities we serve.


Mission: CGLA provides holistic legal services that include social support services and advocacy for individuals and communities negatively impacted by the criminal legal system.

Purpose: CGLA exists to remove barriers to equity in the criminal legal system.

Vision: A more just and equitable criminal legal system.


With your support, we have made notable progress in advancing this Mission and Purpose through our legal services as well as our policy and advocacy efforts. We are also working to bring our internal workplace culture into alignment with our external Mission and Purpose. Below are a few of CGLA’s accomplishments over the past year:



  • Helped launch Clean Slate Illinois, a campaign to create comprehensive, automatic expungement and sealing in Illinois. More than 30 national, state, and local organizations have already signed on to support the campaign.

  • Policy & Advocacy supported the growth of Justice 20/20, an inclusive network of policy advocates, grassroots organizers, community members, those directly impacted by the criminal legal system, and all new learners hoping to make an impact.

  • Policy & Advocacy has been working with our Leadership Council members to better support their work with and contributions to CGLA. With their partnership, CGLA has helped pass 13 bills in recent years that all worked to help remove barriers to equity. You can read more about the council members and their history here.



  • Processed more than 8,000 legal matters for low-income Illinois residents in Adult and Juvenile Criminal Records, Criminal and Juvenile Defense, Family, and Housing legal services.

  • Successfully advocated for petitions to expunge or seal adult records in 83% of the nearly 500 hearings we litigated, and 100% of petitions granted for the 80 individuals we represented seeking relief from juvenile records.

  • Provided wrap around social services support to 45 clients with mitigation testimony, mitigation documentation, financial support, and other resources.

  • Successfully advocated for 18 adults and 11 youths to return to their communities after being charged with violations of their parole and aftercare sentences.

  • Provided full representation or brief services to more than 75 individuals in family law and housing matters for individuals impacted by the criminal legal system.



  • Our executive staff worked with our governing board to increase compensation and bring salaries more in line with median market rates, which we will review and refresh yearly.  

  • Our executive team helped to implement multiple Wellness Initiatives, including:

    • Wellness Days – We gave each staff member 6 Wellness Days to focus on work/life integration as well as mental and physical wellness. This is in addition to vacation time and sick time, and staff are encouraged to take as needed to help promote overall wellness and reduce burn out.

    • Protected Time – Encouraged each team to develop their own ‘Protected Time’ to discourage emails or meetings in order to support healthy boundaries between work and home life in a largely hybrid environment.

    • Wellness and Racial Justice Trainings – Supported CGLA teammates with various trainings to help us support staff and live our mission internally, including:

      • Navigating Vicarious Trauma in a Helping Profession

      • Trauma Informed Remote Work Culture

      • Trauma Informed Holistic Legal Supervision through an Anti-Racist Lens


As amazing as this year has been, we look forward to continued efforts in 2023 when CGLA turns 50!

I could not be more excited that this amazing milestone is happening during my tenure. We are looking forward to celebrating the whole year long - lifting up the impact and growth of CGLA since our founding and humble beginnings at LaSalle Street Church, serving the residents of the Cabrini Green housing project.


With your support we will reflect on CGLA’s legacy, acknowledge where we are and the barriers that still exist to achieving justice, and lay the foundation for where CGLA will travel for the next 50 years as we continue our work to remove barriers to equity!

Best Wishes for Merry Holidays and a Happy New Year, 

Screen Shot 2022-01-28 at 3.10.00 PM.png

Aisha Cornelius Edwards

Executive Director

bottom of page