Advocating for ex-offender job access in House Bill 494

Advocating for a jobs access bill, a group of 16 advocates, attorneys and formerly incarcerated community leaders traveled to Springfield Wednesday.

Leader Ali Simmons and Policy Fellow Jonathan Holmes talk with State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur)
CCH Reentry Project leader Ali Simmons and Policy Fellow Jonathan Holmes talk with State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur)

Working with Cabrini Green Legal Aid and the Community Renewal Society, the CCH Reentry Project spoke to legislators about House Bill 494, which would remove lifetime barriers to employment in schools for people with a criminal record.

Sponsored by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), HB 494 is being considered by the House Elementary and Secondary Education: School Curriculum and Policies Committee. Our group sought meetings with 26 legislators on the committee. 

Illinois law currently bars employment for life for people with any drug convictions and requires a seven-year waiting period for those with non-violent felony offenses. Grassroots leaders shared personal testimonies on how this impacts them even after they have turned their lives around, preventing them from providing for their families and serving as positive community role models.

Legislators overall responded positively. Four legislators agreed to be co-sponsors to the legislation and several others said they were willing to reach out to Rep. Cassidy, signaling interest in the bill.

The CCH Reentry Project was represented by two leaders and organizer Rachel Ramirez.

Meeting with State Rep. Kelly Cassidy
Meeting with State Rep. Kelly Cassidy on HB 494

HB 494 will be heard in committee in coming weeks. Leaders will return to Springfield to meet with other legislators to seek their support.

– Jonathan Holmes, Policy Fellow