Criminal background checks are now used more than ever. This is partly because of the proliferation of computerized recordkeeping (making the checks easier to conduct), but they’ve also been used to a greater extent since 9/11 due to increased security concerns. Add to the mix the recession of the past few years, and employers are quick to use criminal records as an easy first filter on a pool of applicants. When they see that someone has checked “the box” that indicates a criminal past, that person is discarded. A criminal record destroys the candidate’s chances.
Thankfully, lawmakers in Springfield have been showing they are aware of these challenges, and are crafting legislation aimed to help. The recent Illinois law that expands eligibility for sealing means a faster process for some who were previously only eligible to request a Governor’s pardon. Expunging or sealing a criminal record greatly helps ex-offenders to find employment and get their lives on track.
But in order to prove rehabilitation to the State, there is a mandatory waiting period for an expungement or sealing. This means someone has to wait several years after the completion of their case before clearing their record. In the time immediately following their release, ex-offenders often have a very difficult time finding a job. A new Illinois bill addresses this challenge. The proposed law would award a tax credit to employers who hire an ex-offender within three years of his release from an Illinois correctional center. The bill passed the State Senate in March, and is currently making its way through the House.
Our state representatives apparently recognize that when recent offenders struggle, they’re not contributing to their communities and the likelihood of recidivism is much higher. If enacted, this new law would benefit us all. Together with the expanded sealing law, these recent pieces of legislation show that the State is aware that a lot of talent is being wasted because of a mistake in people’s pasts. It is commendable that our lawmakers are creating ways for ex-offenders to re-enter society and lead productive lives.