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This week in Springfield, members of the Illinois Senate will consider an important bill that aims to protect workers against racial discrimination. If enacted, SB 1485 would require the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to establish a telephone hotline and online portal for workers impacted by racial discrimination and harassment to anonymously report and pursue complaints. In order to advance this critical piece of legislation, WCRJ is calling on our allies and supporters to take action.



In Illinois, the prevalence of racialized discrimination in the workplace has had devastating consequences for workers of color. The state's Black unemployment levels have remained the highest in the nation since 2016, with Black constituents facing joblessness at more than twice Illinois' average rate. When controlling for a wide range of employment factors, these staggering racialized disparities persist, establishing that elevated rates of Black unemployment are the direct result of widespread hiring discrimination. Moreover, in recent years, race-based wage discrimination in Illinois has risen to levels not seen in 40 years, with Black workers currently earning only 71% of white workers' take-home pay.


The overwhelming majority of labor discrimination and harassment cases go unreported, often due to a fear of retaliation or job loss. Illinois workers currently lack accessible resources to confidentially pursue workplace complaints. SB 1485 would offer employees a low threshold entry point, either online on by telephone, to anonymously report racial discrimination and harassment.



Your voice is crucial to advancing the fight for racial equity, opportunity and justice. Advocate for the change you want to see in your city, state and beyond by visiting WCRJ’s Racial Justice Online Action Center and demanding policy action of your elected officials now.

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This week the Illinois Senate will consider a critical bill that would secure ballot access for tens of thousands of individuals held in pretrial detention across the state, as well as for Illinoisans returning from incarceration. If enacted, SB 2090 would establish a temporary polling branch within Cook County Jail and require all county jails throughout the state to implement programs allowing eligible inmates to vote by mail. The bill would also mandate prisons and jails to regularly provide inmates with accurate information on voting eligibility. Moreover, IDOC would be obligated to ensure that individuals are provided with a voter registration application upon release.



Current state policy does not adequately protect the voting rights of eligible constituents with current and previous involvement in the criminal justice system. Without robust enforcement of suffrage rights, the electoral interests of millions of residents held in pretrial detention are systematically suppressed by the state.


In 2005, Illinois amended its electoral policy to allow detained individuals awaiting trial to participate in elections. However, due to a lack of oversight, jails routinely restrict inmates' access to the ballot. In 2016, only 23 of the 109 Illinois election authorities show records of voting from jail. Black Illinoisans, who are disproportionately targeted by pretrial detention practices, are particularly impacted by jail voter suppression.


State election law extends voting eligibility to the four million previously incarcerated individuals residing in Illinois. However, research indicates that the overwhelming majority of community members with felony records are unaware of their right to vote, due to widespread misinformation. Hundreds of thousands of residents are thereby, in effect, systematically disenfranchised.


SB 2090 proposes important steps to better protect the voting rights of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. By expanding voter registration, ballot access and eligibility awareness in jails and prisons, the bill would promote more equitable representation in the democratic process.



Your voice is crucial to advancing the fight for racial equity, opportunity and justice. Advocate for the change you want to see in your city, state and beyond by visiting WCRJ’s Racial Justice Online Action Center and demanding policy action of your elected officials now.

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In the coming days, Illinois lawmakers will vote on a critical bill affecting the health and human rights of incarcerated individuals across the state. If enacted, HB 2045 would prevent the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Department of Juvenile Justice from charging inmates prohibitive co-pay fees for medical care.



Across Illinois, individuals held in state prisons are routinely denied medical care as a result of prohibitive co-pay fees imposed by IDOC. While these nominal charges do little to offset the costs of prison healthcare, they prove successful in their actual design to deter the state’s disproportionately poor inmate population from accessing essential medical services. An incarcerated person earning the prison minimum wage of $0.09 an hour would need to work more than 55 hours to pay the $5 fee incurred for a single medical visit. As a result, inmates are regularly compelled to forgo both preventative and urgently needed medical attention.


IDOC’s burdensome medical copay fees impose devastating, often fatal consequences on incarcerated Illinoisans. An independent investigation recently filed in federal court in connection with an ongoing lawsuit over negligent prison health care found that nearly one in three prison deaths were medically preventable. Countless other critical health conditions could have been averted if inmates had adequate access to basic medical services.


Illinois’ prison system relies on prohibitive copay fees to stem the flow of patients into its underinvested medical system. The state currently has the second-lowest number of medical staff and spending per inmate in the nation. IDOC’s overburdened prison medical system is the direct consequence of the state’s prison overpopulation crisis. Propelled by decades of draconian law enforcement and sentencing practices, Illinois currently leads the nation in prison overpopulation, operating facilities at more than 140% of design capacity.


In order to protect the health and human rights of incarcerated Illinoisans, lawmakers must prohibit IDOC from charging fees for medical care, increase financial investment in inmate health care, and reverse the prison overpopulation crisis through retroactive sentencing reform.



Your voice is crucial to advancing the fight for racial equity, opportunity and justice. Advocate for the change you want to see in your city, state and beyond by visiting WCRJ’s Racial Justice Online Action Center and demanding policy action of your elected officials now.

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