CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will give ex-offenders a second chance at employment and a productive life, while offering prosecutors and judges more sentencing options for non-violent offenders to help reduce the risk of repeat offenses. The new laws will also streamline the criminal record expungement process. More than 50 percent of Illinois inmates return to prison within three years. These actions are part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to making sure that everyone in Illinois is able to be a productive member of society.
“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,” Governor Quinn said. “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.”
Senate Bill 1659, sponsored by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) and State Representative Arthur Turner (D-Chicago), increases the income tax credit for those who hire qualified ex-offenders from a cap of $600 to a maximum of $1,500 per employee. It also allows the tax credit to be valid if an ex-offender is hired within three years of being released from incarceration, rather than the current deadline of one year. The tax credit may be taken for up to five years. The new law takes effect immediately.
“I am hopeful that employers will take advantage of this incentive and help provide new opportunities for men and women who deserve a second chance,” Representative Turner said. “Programs like this must be part of a creative approach to reducing recidivism and addressing the larger challenges of unemployment and violence in our communities.”
House Bill 3010, sponsored by House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), creates a “second chance probation” option for non-violent offenders that allows a conviction to be cleared from a defendant’s record upon successful completion of at least a two-year period of probation. This sentencing option gives prosecutors and judges more leeway in dealing with certain offenses. It also offers offenders a chance to keep one brush with the law from becoming a permanent stain on their records. The law takes effect January 1, 2014.
Governor Quinn also today signed House Bill 2470, sponsored by Representative Turner and State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester), which streamlines the criminal record expungement and sealing process. The new law ensures that motions to expunge or seal criminal records are heard in a timely manner. It also ensures that if a judge rules in the defendant’s favor, that ruling is delivered promptly to the proper authorities. The law takes effect immediately.