SPRINGFIELD – Two House Republican legislators with law enforcement backgrounds advanced separate criminal justice reform bills in the Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday aimed at strengthening the ability of current and former inmates who complete an educational degree during their sentence to gain employment upon re-entering the community.
The House approved HB 3884, sponsored by Rep. John Anthony (R-Plainfield), which increases from 60 days to 90 days the length of service credit an eligible offender can earn by completing their high school equivalency testing while in the custody of the Department of Corrections. HB 3884 passed the House by a vote of 95-19 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“Self-improvement and rehabilitation should be the focus of our criminal justice system,” said Rep. Anthony, a former municipal police officer, county sheriff’s deputy, and advocate with the Safer Foundation, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of services to help people with criminal records secure and maintain jobs as they key to successful re-entry into the community. While with the Foundation, Rep. Anthony made assessments, taught GED to at-risk youth ages 16-21 and served as a case manager for adult offenders. “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.”
In a related move, the House also approved HB 3149, sponsored by Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park), a Rockford police detective. The measure allows a non-violent felony offender who earns a high school diploma, associate’s degree, career certificate, vocational technical certification, or bachelor’s degree, or passed their GED test during the period of their sentence, aftercare release, or mandatory supervised release to petition for their criminal record to be sealed from potential employers. HB 3149 passed the House by a vote of 94-20.
“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,” Rep. Cabello said. “The ability to have a record sealed is meant to provide that added incentive.”
Both bills now go to the State Senate for approval.