Prison overcrowding has been a problem for many years. To save money and reduce overcrowding , a number of states have pushed inmates out on early release plans, but the question that seems to have no answer — what happens to these convicts afterwards?

If people get drawn back into the real world, get a job and make a living, studies show they’ll be less likely to go to prison,” stated Howard Husock, vice president for policy research for The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “With early release now on the menu for so many states, it makes the matter more pressing.”

Besides early release, two of the greatest factors that have affected so many ex-convicts ability to settle back into the real world has been lack of proper help/treatment, and how difficult it can be to find employment with a record. This month, Illinois lawmakers have taken strides to help the latter.

Based on Capability, not Record

Under a new law signed earlier this month, ex-offenders in Illinois will no longer have to disclose their criminal pasts until employers evaluate their qualifications, and abilities. This is great news for the newly released convicts trying to turn their lives around. State Rep. Rita Mayfield, who attended the signing at St. Michael Missionart Baptist Church on Chicago’s West Side, spoke about the new law; “This is the culmination of hope for so many individuals.”
Among those who attended the signing was 34-year old Eddie Parker of Chicago who had served six years in a Correctional Center for drug possession. Though Parker, a certified butcher, was released a decade ago, he explained that securing a job over the years has been extremely difficult due to his record.

Ban the Box

This new law will allow ex-convicts a chance to show who they really are, their abilities, and personality before an employer is turned off by their record. At the signing, Parker mentioned the tiny box on every application that makes you check off if you have a criminal record. Parker said, “”Without [the box], it can change a lot. It gives us a chance to tell you our story. A person can change a lot coming back to society.”

Illinois is the fifth state to approve a law that requires the disclosure of a criminal history and criminal background until it’s determined that the potential employee is qualified for the position. Certain types of jobs — some construction jobs, emergency medical jobs and and security jobs — may be exempt. The law takes affect January first of next year.

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