Politics

Illinois Law Would Help Inmates Earn Degrees, Better Chance of Employment

| by Ethan Brown
Prison Cell.Prison Cell.

Two Republican members of the Illinois House of Representatives have crafted legislation that aims to assist inmates who continue to pursue their education during their time behind bars.

The bill, formally titled House Bill 3884, was passed in a bipartisan vote on April 16. It now advances to the Illinois State Senate.

In HB 3884, authored by Republican Rep. John Anthony, the law says that, “90 days of sentence credit shall be awarded to any prisoner who passes high school equivalency testing while the prisoner is committed to the Department of Corrections,” meaning that inmates will see a reduction of 90 days off their sentence if they complete their GED.

“Self-improvement and rehabilitation should be the focus of our criminal justice system. By incentivizing inmates to earn their GED, we can help them transition back into the community after completing their sentence and dramatically increase their likelihood of success in finding employment,” Anthony said.

Rep. Anthony has a criminal justice background, previously working as a county sheriff’s deputy and later for the Safer Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that assists former inmates with help in finding and maintaining employment, The Times of Ottawa, Illinois, reported.

Rep. John Cabello also wrote legislation that coincides with Anthony’s work in assisting current and former inmates. HB 3149 will bar an individual’s criminal record to be shown when looking for employment if they only committed a nonviolent felony and if “they receive a high school diploma, associate’s degree, career certificate, vocational technical certification, or bachelor’s degree, or passed the high school level Test of General Education Department” during their time behind bars, according to the text of the legislation.

The new pieces of legislation come one month after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, announced a new commission dedicated to reforming the state’s criminal justice system. The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform was created by an executive order that Rauner signed himself; the commission aims to reduce the state’s prison population by one-fourth by 2025, Progress Illinois reported in March.

Sources: The Times, Progress Illinois, Illinois General Assembly

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