Our Chicago: Former IL inmates getting help staying out of jail and on the job

Pending state legislation supports small businesses hire, train former inmates

ByABC 7 Digital Team via WLS logo
Saturday, August 27, 2022
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Pending Illinois legislation could help support small businesses train and hire formerly incarcerated inmates.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the city works to curb violent crimes, there's also work being done in communities to help people plan a better future, and to support those navigating the criminal justice system.

The Lawndale Christian Legal Center works with people who have been arrested and guides them through job placement and housing programs to change their paths.

"If you're trying to find a job and trying to lay your head at night or get up in the morning to prepare for an interview the likelihood of you getting or keeping that job is very low," said Matthew McFarland with LCLC.

Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimates that of the people released from Illinois prisons each year, 43% go back within three years. And that number increases with time.

Earlier this month, center announced the construction of a $17 million rehab of an old school at 14th and Keeler. It will house 20 young men going through the criminal justice system.

Last month, LCLC expanded on a partnership with The Bail Project to house people coming out of Cook County Jail.

"To give them that stability so that they can get up, make their court dates, so that they can find jobs, so that they can go to treatment and have place to stay," said McFarland.

Our Chicago: Part 2

Restorative programs that help inmates find steady work is also crucial in keeping formerly incarcerated people from returning to jail or prison.

"The Safer Communities & Small Business Act" is new legislation being considered in Illinois to encourage more businesses to hire previously incarcerated people as a way to reduce recidivism.

"Small businesses are having such a difficult time hiring employees," said Elliot Richardson, President of the Small Business Advocacy Council. "This legislation will also help foster opportunities for formerly incarcerated folks and get them back into the work force. Statistics show that having a job helps keep people out of prison."

The bill provides financial incentives which businesses can use to provide crucial on-the-job training to former inmates.

"This legislation can bring new people into the workforce," said Richardson. "You have a whole group of individuals sort of on the bench that we want to bring into the game."