By | August 18, 2015

Every year, thousands of Illinoisans are denied the opportunity to work because of past mistakes. These men and women, who have paid their debts to society and turned their lives around, are far too often unable to secure reliable employment, and they–and even the loved ones they care for–are forced to serve what is tantamount to a lifelong sentence of poverty.

That is unacceptable.

Reducing crime requires more than just incarcerating people who make mistakes; it also requires being courageous enough to remove barriers to basic necessities like employment for the hard-working men and women in Illinois who have made mistakes in their past.

Thankfully, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed three bills yesterday that will go a long way towards addressing this problem.

The first bill, HB 3475, expands eligibility for Certificates of Good Conduct and Certificates of Relief from Disability. Individuals who are able to prove with clear and convincing evidence that they have turned their lives around may petition the court to receive one of these certificates, which may help these individuals to obtain employment or licensure.  

HB 3149 allows hard-working men and women with certain offenses who have completed higher education, vocational certification, or a similar program to ask the courts and law enforcement to limit who can look at their old records – through a process called “sealing” – sooner than allowed under current law.

Finally, SB 844 gives individuals with old convictions a chance to petition to limit who can look at their old records three years after they complete their sentence – a year sooner than under current law.

These bills will breathe new opportunity into the lives of over 1 million Illinois residents whose potential was previously squandered for lack of second chances. Now, people who have made mistakes, served their sentence, and been rehabilitated, can move beyond their past and into their future.

I cannot thank Governor Rauner, Governor Rauner’s Public Safety Senior Policy Advisory Samantha Gaddy, our diverse coalition, outspoken community members, and the courageous and committed leaders in the General Assembly enough for recognizing this and doing whatever was in their power to ensure that more hard-working men and women in Illinois can get an opportunity to take care of themselves and their families.

Special thanks are due to Rep. Rita Mayfield and Sen. Kimberly Lightford for sponsoring HB 3475, to Rep. John Cabello and Sen. Terry Link for their work on HB 2149, and Rep. Esther Golar and Sen. James Clayborne for their tireless efforts on SB 844. 

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