On Saturday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a few pieces of legislation that
he says will give ex-offenders a second chance at employment and a
The new laws offer prosecutors and judges more sentencing options for non-violent offenders and streamlines the criminal record expungement process in an effort to help reduce the risk of repeat offenses. In a statement, Quinn noted that more than 50 percent of Illinois inmates return to prison within three years.
HB 3010, creates a “second chance probation” option. The new law allows non-violent convictions to be cleared from a defendant’s record upon successful
completion of at least two years of probation. House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) sponsored the measure, which takes effect January 1.
Another bill, SB 1659, sponsored by State
Sen. Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Arthur Turner
(D-Chicago), increases the income tax credit for employers who hire
qualified ex-offenders to a maximum of $1,500 per
employee. Previously, the income tax credit was capped at $600. The new law, which takes effect immediately, lets employers
receive the tax credit if an ex-offender is hired within three years of
being released from jail. Employers can take the tax
credit for up to five years.
The final measure, HB 2470, sponsored
by Turner and State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester), ensures
that motions to expunge or seal criminal records are heard in a timely
manner. Also, if a judge rules in the defendant’s favor, that ruling
must be delivered promptly to the proper authorities. The law takes
“Formerly incarcerated individuals shouldn’t face a life sentence of
no job prospects and no opportunities to better themselves just because
they have served time in prison,” Quinn said in a statement. “These new
laws will help them get back on their feet, contribute to their
communities and keep one offense from becoming a life-long barrier.”
On Friday, Quinn also approved legislation that expands non-violent felony convictions that are eligible for criminal record sealing. Previously, drug possession or prostitution were the only felony convictions for which records could be sealed. The new law adds theft, retail theft, forgery, possession of burglary tools, deceptive practices and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver to the list of offenses eligible for record sealing, which locks away but does not destroy certain criminal records.
A statement from State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago), one of the bill's sponsors, points out that sealing records still allows certain agencies, such as law enforcement, schools, park districts, child service, health care and banking to continue to have access to the records.
Under the new law, the
sealing is allowed four years after termination of the person's last
sentence. A person looking to seal a drug offense would be required
to pass a drug test within the 30 days before filing a petition.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) also sponsored the measure, HB 3061, which takes effect immediately.