Currently, Illinois law only permits the sealing of nonviolent misdemeanor offenses and only three Class 4 felonies (possession of marijuana and controlled substances, and prostitution). Because so many offenses cannot be sealed, it is unlikely that most ex-offenders would ever be permitted to fully integrate back into society by being given a chance to work, to improve their education, or to have access to safe affordable housing.
HB 5723 would enhance the current law by making the additional nonviolent offenses sealable on petition in the Circuit Court after 4 years from release, where there has been no further contact with the criminal justice system. If changes are not made to level the playing field for these nonviolent ex-offenders, their barriers to opportunities in employment, education, and housing will push them to the margins of society to become part of a permanent underclass with little chance of flourishing and providing opportunities to their children beyond the pale of poverty.
We believe that this bill represents sensible policy. It saves our State money by reducing recidivism. When people obtain gainful employment, it diminishes the likelihood that they will be among the 51% that return to prison within three years of their release, it integrates ex-offenders into the mainstream of our communities, and is nothing short of a benefit to the State’s struggling economy.
We ask that you support HB 5723 by requesting your Representation in the IL House to vote, yes, and to consider becoming a co-sponsor, as we need a stronger than usual statement of support to pass reforms in criminal justice.