It’s known as “the box”--the little square that job applicants are expected to check on an employment application if they have a criminal record. Cities and states around the country have passed laws to mitigate the effects of “the box” for ex-offenders. Now, Springfield is approaching the issue from a different direction--giving businesses an incentive to hire ex-offenders.
A bill that passed the Illinois Senate and is now making its way through the House would offer a $1,500 tax credit for any business that hires someone who has a criminal record--an increase from the $600 credit offered before.
The legislation also extends the definition of an “ex-offender” to include anyone with a criminal record except for sex offenders and credits businesses for hiring people who have been out of prison for up to three years.
“I hope this bill will help ease some of the burden placed on communities when ex-offenders leave prison,” said state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, the lead sponsor of the bill. “And I hope it is part of a comprehensive approach to re-entry for former prisoners.”
Advocates who work with prisoners have applauded the bill.
“Having a record creates a lifetime barrier to employment,” said Laurie Jo Reynolds, an activist with the Tamms Year Ten, which was created to advocate for prisoners inside of the now-closed Tamms Correctional Center. The bill “would give companies a strong incentive to hire people with records.”
Reynolds said a paycheck can go a long way toward helping an entire community. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project, one in 28 children had a parent behind bars in 2010, and ex-offenders’ criminal record cuts their earnings by 40 percent.
“Employment is the fundamental way for people to become stable in all areas of their life,” she said. “Giving even a small incentive to hire people with records will ultimately strengthen these communities.”
Here’s what else we’re following in Springfield this week:
Mandatory-minimum gun legislation in the House would place anyone caught with an illegal gun behind bars for at least 2.5 years. We looked at an estimated long-term price tag of this bill on Chicago Muckrakers this week.
Under current law, a 17-year-old who commits a felony is tried in adult court in Illinois. A House bill would raise the age at which an offender can be classified as a “delinquent minor” and sent to an adult court from 17 to 18.
A bill will increase the penalties for anyone who submits false information to get healthcare services from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony.
A lawmaker from Watseka, a small town in Western Illinois, is attempting to bring back funding for Dwight Correctional Center, one of the prisons Gov. Pat Quinn ordered closed last year. The bill would add more than $35 million into the budget for the Illinois Department of Corrections to operate Dwight.