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Author Topic: State House Passes Bill Rewarding Inmates Who Pursue Education Behind Bars  (Read 41508 times)

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Offline Forevermah

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State House Passes Bill Rewarding Inmates Who Pursue Education Behind Bars With Shorter Sentences

by Carimah Townes Posted on April 20, 2015 at 2:05 pm



Police-officers-turned-legislators sponsored two bills that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in Illinois’ House of Representatives last week, which would reward inmates who continue their education behind bars with shorter sentences and sealed criminal records.

Last February, Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park) sponsored HB 3149, which would seal criminal records for non-violent felony offenders seeking employment, 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 Educational Development” while completing their sentence. The same applies for individuals who earn a certificate during aftercare or supervised release.

A separate bill introduced two days later by Rep. John Anthony (R-Plainfield), HB 3884, says, “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.” In other words, inmates will have 90 days deducted from their sentences. The credit can be tacked on to any credit that was previously earned by someone under DOC supervision.

On Thursday, the two bills received bipartisan support, garnering 80 percent of House votes.

Cabello, a detective for Rockford Police Department, responded, “With this legislation I hope to encourage participation in progressive educational programs so that people serving sentences for non-violent crimes may take their chance at becoming productive members of society upon their release.”

Anthony similarly comes from a law enforcement background, having served as a municipal police officer and county sheriff’s deputy. Prior to becoming a state legislator, he worked as a case manager for adult offenders with the Safer Foundation, which assists formerly incarcerated people with the job application process. And days before the House voted on HB 3884, he was appointed to the the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC). “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,” he said.

According to a RAND Corporation study, a person who pursues academic or vocational education while serving time is 13 percent more likely to find employment. Correctional education also leads to a 43 percent lower chance of recidivating.

For people behind bars in Illinois, the new legislation could mean the difference between successful re-entry and future recidivism, as criminal records typically hinder employment opportunities. The vast majority of U.S. employers — 87 percent — conduct background checks during the hiring process, and any involvement in the criminal justice system reduces the likelihood of being hired. By extension, people who are unable to find work have a difficult time securing housing, food, and other necessary items — and subsequently break the law to make ends meet. Today, 70 million people have arrests or convictions on their records.

Sealing criminal records from potential employers can give former inmates a chance at gainful employment. Outside of Illinois, efforts to “ban the box,” or remove questions about applicants’ criminal backgrounds, are gaining traction. Without having to answer the dreaded conviction question, which also shows up on housing applications and insurance forms, people re-entering society will have one less obstacle to climb. Earlier this month, Virginia joined the ranks of D.C., Nebraska, and Georgia, which implemented their own variations of ban the box laws.


http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/04/20/3648781/state-house-passes-bill-rewarding-inmates-pursue-education-behind-bars-shorter-sentences/
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Offline trauma4us

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Wow - I wonder if this would actually be for ALL prisoners?  Even those who are serving an 85% sentence on a Class X violent offense? 

That would certainly give my son and many others some degree of hope because as of now, these prisoners can get no sentence credit as they are exempt from the SSC.

Offline trauma4us

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Well, nope after reading it, it won't be applying to my son!

Offline Forevermah

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They need to change the way they look at Class X convictions too, if someone is out for a certain amount of years and gets into no further trouble, let Class X convictions be removed from the records too, giving those individuals chances. They've paid their dues, but continue to be punished for life, just not right.
Do not value the "things" you have in your life - value "who" you have in your life....



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Offline GoodGirl

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According to this, the second bill (HB 3884) does not state the degree of offense, so class X would be included in the 90 day sentence credit.  Only the first bill says non violent offenders can have their records sealed as well.
Unless I am missing something.

Offline me

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According to this, the second bill (HB 3884) does not state the degree of offense, so class X would be included in the 90 day sentence credit.  Only the first bill says non violent offenders can have their records sealed as well.
Unless I am missing something.

That is the way I am understanding it as well with the 90 day credit.


Offline trauma4us

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I interpreted HB 3884 as an amendment not as a new bill correct?

So, if you then look above and click on that link this is part of that law:


"(iii) that a prisoner serving a sentence for home
           
invasion, armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, aggravated discharge of a firearm, or armed violence with a category I weapon or category II weapon, when the court has made and entered a finding, pursuant to subsection (c-1) of Section 5-4-1 of this Code, that the conduct leading to conviction for the enumerated offense resulted in great bodily harm to a victim, shall receive no more than 4.5 days of sentence credit for each month of his or her sentence of imprisonment;"

Am I reading this wrong?

Offline GoodGirl

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It is an amendment, but the amendment says "ANY"

Amends the Unified Code of Corrections. Provides that 90 (rather than 60) 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. Provides that the Department of Corrections may also award 90 (rather than 60) days of sentence credit to any committed person who passed high school equivalency testing while he or she was held in pre-trial detention prior to the current commitment to the Department of Corrections.

Offline New person1

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What kind of test is this my nephew has his high school diploma is this what this is?

Offline trauma4us

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Okay - I just don't want to get my hopes up as my son is in for a long time and I don't even talk to him about getting any extra time off - he figures his out date is set in stone.

The whole mess just makes me so very sad.

Offline trauma4us

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No, I read it as any education to include associates, bachelors degree - along the lines of that.

My son also has his GED and some college credit so he would need to get some more credit.


Offline hopeful.wife

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I feel like this is a stupid question, but is parole supervised release?  If so, it sounds like they can attend school while on parole and still get the benefit of sealed criminal records.  "The same applies for individuals who earn a certificate during aftercare or supervised release." 

Offline lvanrs2

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I wonder is this will apply to those who have already earned some school credit on a previous incarceration.
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Offline jaf

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Both HB 3149  and HB 3884 are on the list for in the Criminal Law Committee Hearing this morning at 9 am.
 
If you want to listen in, you can go to this link and then click on where it will say something like, "listen to room 400 Capitol"   

http://ilga.gov/senate/audvid.asp

Offline jaf

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They are just now getting started and our bills are both on the list the chairman read to be heard today!

Offline trauma4us

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What happened?  Just now getting home

Offline Forevermah

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HB3139 was  .....   5/6/2015   Senate   Placed on Calendar Order of 2nd Reading May 7, 2015


HB3884 
 5/6/2015   Senate   Do Pass Criminal Law; 010-000-000
  5/6/2015   Senate   Placed on Calendar Order of 2nd Reading May 7, 2015
  5/6/2015   Senate   Added as Alternate Chief Co-Sponsor Sen. Patricia Van Pelt
Do not value the "things" you have in your life - value "who" you have in your life....



“Instead of thinking about what you're missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.”

Offline jaf

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The Internet was down around here for the rest of the day.  So frustrating!  You just don't realize how many times a day you want to look something up!

Yeah, these Bills are flying through the process.  No opponents. 

Offline cem31

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They need to change the way they look at Class X convictions too, if someone is out for a certain amount of years and gets into no further trouble, let Class X convictions be removed from the records too, giving those individuals chances. They've paid their dues, but continue to be punished for life, just not right.

I totally agree with you but Class X'rs also need some form of consideration and means of earning credit while they are still serving their sentence, especially those who stay out of trouble, and namely those who are not there of their own wrongdoing i.e.those convicted on accountability. Our justice system needs a complete overhaul or else recidivism will continue to grow. If you don't give them something to look forward to then they have no motivation to stay out of trouble, while inside or out.

Offline tkesde1

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The way I read it was that it was only credit for earning a GED. My thought is that if we all interpret this differently, how will it be interpreted by IDOC? Pessimist - yes. Realist - Yes. But hopeful! :wc25:
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