To celebrate National Reentry Week, we wanted to highlight an important bill that popped up in Springfield. It sits right at the intersection of reentry and financial empowerment, and it has become one of our top priorities this legislative session!
HB4446, sponsored by Rep. Wheeler & Sen. McGuire, would increase educational opportunities for people with criminal records. The bill would “ban the box” in the admissions process for Illinois higher education institutions – so previous arrests or convictions could not be considered when you apply to college. The bill would, however, still allow a person’s criminal record to be considered after admission, for offering campus housing, participating in campus activities, or to offer career counseling.
We support HB4446 because education can be an important tool for a person trying to become financially stable when returning to the community. With about 42% of Illinois adults having a criminal record, removing this barrier would have a big impact, giving people a fair chance to rebuild their lives after being incarcerated.
About 66% of colleges ask about an applicant’s criminal record. Even asking this question presents a huge barrier. It has a chilling effect – discouraging individuals with criminal records from completing the application. 62.5% of people with criminal records pull themselves out of the admissions process when they see a question about criminal records on the application.
We are excited to be working on this bill to increase educational opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. Last week, the bill passed out of the House. We will be working to pass it out of the Senate in the coming weeks. Check out the fact sheet to learn more, and stay tuned for action alerts and updates!