Wednesday, March 27, 2013 , Vol. XII No.6
The Case for Second Chances
On March 8, 2013, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that total employment increased by 236,000 in February and the unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 per cent.
That's good news in many communities across the country, but it won't change things very much for Floyd because he has a felony record (see video).
Floyd knows from experience that finding a job is one of the greatest challenges facing people with criminal convictions. He tells us, "I'm able to be a student right now, but I have great concern about graduating—that when I do, there may not be a job waiting for me because of my background."
Based on interviews with the top 100 companies in the nation, the Society for Human Resources Management reported that 74 per cent of employers said that a non-violent felony conviction is very influential in their decision not to hire individuals with records. Floyd, like many others, has paid his debt to society, but now he's still serving a sentence—a sentence created by an unforgiving society, that puts up barriers that deny formerly-incarcerated persons access to the everyday opportunities of a decent job and a place to live.
PCG and CRS have worked for a number of years to help the Floyds of our communities, through individual advocacy and, now, through CRS' F.O.R.C.E. (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality) project. We have also worked on legislation that permits the sealing of records for non-violent offenders who completed their sentences and have had no further convictions during a four-year period. We advocated for the passage of the first sealing bill in 2005, and now we are working to expand the number of non-violent offenses that can be sealed.
Sealing non-violent records helps individuals with backgrounds to establish themselves as productive members of society. The 2005 Safer Foundation Recidivism Study found that full-time employment reduces the likelihood that an ex-offender will return to prison. Forty-seven per cent of the formerly-incarcerated returned to prison when they did not have full-time employment after incarceration, but the recidivism rate for those with full-time employment was a much-lower eight per cent.
Floyd is asking for a second chance. The process is adversarial, not automatic, and law enforcement officers may object to the motion to seal at any time in the process. Law enforcement, along with schools, health care organizations, financial institutions, among others, would continue to have access to the sealed records.
Thirty-eight legislators have signed onto HB 3061, sponsored by Representative LaShawn Ford, but regardless there is push-back. Some legislators don't want to appear soft on crime while others seem to believe that a difficult, nearly impossible, re-entry experience is what persons with records have "earned."
In this holy season, should we not be a people of forgiveness and redemption? Surely that's the example Jesus set before us when he promised a condemned thief a place in Paradise and then prayed for his executioners to be forgiven. Even Peter's denial, not once, but three times, in the hours before the crucifixion did not go un-forgiven. The resurrected Christ met the disgraced denier on the beach to give Peter a second chance.
A representative of a suburban district recently told me about a young woman in the district who had a fourteen-year-old forgery conviction. She has turned her life around and is now attending nursing school. However, her felony record bars this young woman from taking her clinicals. The legislator asked, "Would this bill help my constituent?"
The answer is yes.
HB 3061 would give her, Floyd and 3.9 million Illinois ex-offenders a second chance.
Laura Dean F. Friedrich
Director of Policy and Advocacy, Community Renewal Society
There are costs in being brought back from the dead to life. Just ask Lazarus.
Illinois ought to be a leader of national legal reforms that consider prostituted people as victims of human trafficking in need of services rather than as criminal offenders.
STUDY THE LECTIONARY
Biblical scholar Jay Wilcoxen advocates for the plain and direct sense of the Lectionary readings for each week.
Apr 14 3rd Sunday of Easter
"The Risen Lord sends servants into the world – while a heavenly court praises the worthy Lamb."
Apr 7 2nd Sunday of Easter
"Easter creates Alleluias, a heavenly drama, and a new Presence empowering mission and forgiveness."
Mar 31 Easter Sunday
"Ecstatic news of God's new work leads to a vacant tomb – and retelling the gospel story."
Mar 29 Good Friday
"… crucified under Pontius Pilate… "Certainly this man was innocent.""
PCG believes that it is imperative for people of faith to participate actively in our political democracy. Become an advocate.
Take action now to urge your State Senator and Representative to support raising the minimum wage to keep pace with the rising cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on. Full-time workers should not live in poverty.
Take action now and tell your legislator to vote yes for SB26.
SB26 authorizes Illinois to provide Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act to about 342,000 low-income Illinois citizens who are currently uninsured.
Please join in the work of PCG and our coalition partners by attending the following events.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Peace with Justice Sunday at Wesley UMC, Urbana
Urbana, IL: On Sunday, April 7, Rev. Dr. Steve Shoemaker, former PCG Board Member, will preach for Peace with Justice Sunday at Wesley United Methodist Church at the University of Illinois. Poetry slam and potluck will follow. All are welcome.
Monday, April 8, 2013
PCG's Spring Advocacy Network Workshop – Chicago
Chicago, IL: On Monday, April 8, join advocates from congregations across Chicagoland for a fun evening of fellowship, advocacy training, and legislative briefing at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St. 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Registration and more information here.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
PCG's Spring Advocacy Network Workshop – Glencoe
Glencoe, IL: On Saturday, April 13, join advocates from congregations across Chicagoland for a fun morning of fellowship, advocacy training, and legislative briefing at Glencoe Union Church, 263 Park Avenue, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Registration and more information here.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
CRS' Faith-in-Action Day at the Capitol
Springfield, IL: On Tuesday, April 16, advocates from Community Renewal Society will travel together by bus for the annual "Faith-in-Action" Day at the Capitol. Join us for a rally, prayer vigil, and face-to-face visits with legislators. Registration and more information here.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Environment Lobby Day
Springfield, IL: On May 2, join PCG and members of the Illinois Environmental Council to advocate for important environmental issues in Illinois related to the costs of energy extraction, and their impacts on land, water, and people. Register now.
The Common Good Network welcomes responses from readers about individual articles or the newsletter as a whole. We also welcome submissions from our readers. Take a moment to tell us what you think. Please email your suggestions, comments, and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Protestants for the Common Good relies on its members and readers for much of its support. If you are able to contribute, please do so.
© 2013 Protestants for the Common Good. All Rights Reserved.