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Kudos for Illinois Recidivism Laws

Twenty-eight states have passed "ban the box" laws, but only nine apply those to private businesses. (
Twenty-eight states have passed "ban the box" laws, but only nine apply those to private businesses. (
August 3, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A publication that takes a look every year at legislation debated across the nation is highlighting Illinois as an example of good laws put on the books.

The state took steps to reduce recidivism by enacting laws that help former inmates reintegrate into society, including finding jobs and a place to live. Scott Greenberger, executive director of Stateline, said other states have followed Illinois' lead in enacting the so-called ban the box law. It means in many cases offenders aren't asked to check the box on an employment application indicating they've served time in jail or prison.

"Two of the new Illinois laws eliminate general bans that prevent people with drug convictions from working at schools or park districts,” Greenberger said; “and another bill that lifts the ban preventing people convicted of forcible felonies from obtaining health-care licenses."

There are 28 states with “ban the box" laws on the books, but only nine have extended them to cover private businesses.

In neighboring Indiana this year, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law barring local governments from passing "ban the box" ordinances that would apply to private businesses. Legislation in Kentucky, meanwhile, targeted occupational licensing boards that were preventing people with criminal records from getting licensed to cut hair or work in health care.

The latest Stateline report looks at medical marijuana laws, reproductive health care and state legislatures that pushed back against citizen-approved ballot measures. Greenberger said one example is South Dakota, where residents approved campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, but lawmakers repealed the measure.

"Just because people approve something at the ballot box doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be implemented the way they envisioned or, in that case, implemented at all,” Greenberger said.

Maine lawmakers repealed a new tax on the wealthy, and in Florida residents voted in favor of medicinal marijuana, but lawmakers tweaked the law. It now says pot can't be smoked, but must be ingested in other ways. A lawsuit by one of the backers of that legislation has been filed.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL