Help Change IL Laws: People with Records Need Jobs

“Recidivism starts with rejection. The first couple of no’s a returning citizen hears makes one think, ‘I might as well go back to doing what I know how to do.’ And that lands them back in prison.”

LeRonn is right.

The recidivism rate for men and women who find employment after incarceration is 8%, while the recidivism rate for those without full-time employment is much higher at 47%.

Testifying at a hearing on employment barriers convened by the Illinois House Judiciary and Restorative Justice Committees on December 9, 2014, LeRonn talked about his job in the Safe Passage program at Orr High School in 2010. After five months, he received a promotion, but he was fired on the very day the promotion was announced. The dismay expressed by an assistant principal and other staff demonstrated that Orr did not want to lose LeRonn. Instead, the school code’s life-time bar required his termination.

Almost four million men and women currently live in Illinois with criminal records. For these individuals, jobs are often unattainable. Current laws make it illegal for employers in schools and park districts to hire qualified, law-abiding candidates because of past mistakes, no matter how old the offenses. As a result, hundreds of thousands of qualified applicants are unable to get jobs they need to support themselves and their families.

The legislators heard many other stories, such as one told by Charles from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Charles, after a four-month interview process, was hired as Executive Director at a suburban park district but was fired a few days later because of a 23-year-old low-level, non-violent drug conviction. 

Please urge your state legislators to change school and park district codes so that men and women with records have a better chance to find jobs and support themselves and their families, and thank the legislators who participated in the hearing. 


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