ON-Lion Letter
Every year, more than 30,000 people are released from Illinois prisons and face the steep challenge of re-entering society, according to a late-March report from the Illinois Policy Institute.  Nearly 50% of offenders released from state prisons will return within three years, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.  The best way to break this cycle of incarceration is a good-paying job.

Ex-offenders who have jobs within a year after release are dramatically less likely to end up back behind bars, according to The debt never paid:  Re-entry reforms for Illinois, by Bryant Jackson-Green and David Camic.  The Institute's research found that even a 1% decline in recidivism amounts to saving the state $108.2 million over nine years in tax dollars, victimization costs, and lost economic activity.

Jackson-Green is a criminal-justice policy analyst and Camic is a senior fellow at the Illinois Policy Institute.

"Having a job and supporting your family is a main pillar of the American dream, and everyone deserves that opportunity," Jackson-Green said.  "But many ex-offenders like Lisa are denied this dream.  We tell them they served their sentence and paid the price for their crime, but state law makes them keep paying decades later by barring them from employment opportunities.  The harder Illinois makes it to find a job, the harder it will be to escape the cycle of poverty and crime.  Lawmakers need to remove barriers that keep former offenders out of work."

The report offers several reform ideas, including:  allowing most nonviolent offenders the chance to apply to have their criminal records sealed as soon as they successfully complete their prison sentences or parole; protecting businesses from lawsuits based solely on hiring an employee with a criminal record; and removing legal barriers that prevent former offenders from working in most licensed occupations.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Institute's Criminal Justice Policy Center.
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