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The Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) and the Center for Racial and Gender Equity (CRGE) are pleased to announce the launch of the Racial Justice Online Action Center. This interactive legislative website offers users critical analysis on key racial justice policies and accessible opportunities to promote equity in our communities.



The online guide analyzes the racial impact of more than twenty critical bills currently pending in the Illinois General Assembly. Our legislative agenda includes policies pertaining to criminal justice reform, re-entry, police accountability, workers rights, economic justice and direct democracy. Each bill summary is accompanied by a quick one-click action that allows constituents to urge elected officials to either support or oppose significant legislation via a pre-written email or tweet.


By inviting individuals to help spark big change through accessible online actions, this initiative serves as a low threshold entry point into the broader movement for Black Liberation. Through this project, WCRJ and CRGE will grow our powerful base of grassroots racial justice activists and prime the pipeline of progressive Black leadership.

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 demanding policy action of your elected officials now.


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In the coming days, members of the Illinois House of Representative will consider a critical bill that would prohibit the state from levying unjust and exorbitant lawsuits against formerly incarcerated residents. HB 900, which passed through House committee this week, would repeal the statewide prison “pay-to-stay” law, under which the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is permitted to charge former inmates for the costs of their incarceration and to conduct intrusive investigations of their personal financial assets.



In 2015, formerly incarcerated Illinoisans witnessed a devastating uptick in the number of lawsuits the state filed against individuals to recoup the cost of imprisonment. The state's pay-to-stay provision allows IDOC to aggressively investigate inmates' finances in order to identify potential targets of such lawsuits. This measure facilitates the systematic plunder of what small amounts of capital are held among the state's disproportionately poor inmate population.Through this unscrupulous practice, Illinois has seized all manner of minor assets from prisoners, including savings earned through low wage prison labor and the proceeds awarded in a lawsuit over negligent prison medical care.


Financial stability is essential to supporting the long term safety, opportunity and liberation of formerly incarcerated residents. By stripping individuals of their personal capital, the pay-to-stay law undermines equity and justice for returning Illinoisans, as well as their families and communities. Moreover, such practices serve to perpetuate Illinois' inhumane and racially targeted system of mass incarceration by continuing to directly offload its collateral costs onto inmates and communities of color.



This action alert marks the launch of WCRJ and CRGE’s Racial Justice Action Center, a project designed to offer our supporters critical analysis on key policy issues and accessible opportunities to promote equity and justice in our community. By inviting individuals to help spark big change through small, one-click actions, the Racial Justice Action Center serves as a low threshold entry point into the broader movement for Black Liberation. Through this project, WCRJ and CRGE will broaden and deepen its base of powerful racial justice activists and prime the pipeline of progressive Black leadership.

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This past week in Springfield, State Representative Lamont Robinson, in partnership with the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ), introduced the Securing All Futures through Equitable Reinvestment (SAFER) Communities Act. This groundbreaking legislation, which was conceived of and advanced by WCRJ’s council of formerly incarcerated members, aims to reverse Illinois’ inhumane practice of mass incarceration and create high quality employment opportunities for job seekers with conviction records.


The SAFER Communities Act (HB 3120) proposes an achievable plan for Illinois to reverse mass incarceration, foster job creation, invest in local business, and grow the state economy. HB 3120 would implement retroactive reform of Illinois’ overly punitive and racially targeted mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The immediate surplus of public dollars secured through decarceration would fund a tax credit program, designed to incentivize local employers to hire applicants with conviction histories. The SAFER Communities Act offers Illinois a bold new vision of what neighborhood safety can look like when we divest from systems, such as prisons and law enforcement, that perpetuate racialized structural inequity, and reinvest in initiatives that foster opportunity and justice for all.


By enacting initial reform of the state’s draconian sentencing laws, HB 3120 would take a decisive step towards dismantling Illinois’ destructive and costly system of mass incarceration. The SAFER Communities Act proposes retroactive elimination of mandatory minimum sentences. Individuals currently detained in state prisons would be eligible for resentencing appeals in accordance with bill’s retroactive reform measures, returning thousands of Illinoisans to their families and communities.


The SAFER Communities Act would also promote 20,000 new high quality jobs for previously incarcerated workers in Illinois. HB 3120 would incentivize hiring by offering employers tax credits of up to $15,000 annually for employing previously incarcerated workers for new, full time, living wage positions for at least 24 months. Increased financial investment and elevated employment rates would also have resoundingly positive implications for local residents and businesses in communities most adversely impacted by decades of mass incarceration and systemic disinvestment.


This legislative session WCRJ will call upon lawmakers to withdraw taxpayer dollars from the state’s toxic prison system, and responsibly invest in the SAFER Communities employment program, which will create jobs, support Illinois businesses and boost local economies. As we advance HB 3120 through the state legislature, WCRJ is committed to amplifying the voices and priorities of individuals most directly affected by Illinois’ inhumane prison system.  WCRJ gratefully acknowledges Representative Lamont Robinson and Raise the Floor for their invaluable dedication to bringing this critical piece of legislation to the Illinois General Assembly.

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