SAFER Communities Act for Illinois
The SAFER Communities Act would improve public safety in our communities, promote job access for formerly incarcerated Illinoisans, and deliver economic relief to thousands of local businesses in communities most impacted by mass incarceration. HB 3418 would establish a living wage job creation program for formerly incarcerated residents and offer local employers wage subsidies for hiring candidates with conviction records into newly created, high-quality jobs.
Economic opportunity for formerly incarcerated Illinoisans
The unemployment level among people with conviction records is nearly five times the overall national rate. In Illinois, more than half of all job seekers returning from incarceration are unable to obtain stable employment within eight months of release. Those who do secure work earn significantly lower wages.
Even as Illinois adopts new laws to remove discrimination barriers for formerly incarcerated job applicants, inconsistent enforcement of those policies perpetuate disproportionately low employment and rates.
By investing in high quality, living wage employment for formerly incarcerated job seekers, the SAFER Communities Act would promote economic opportunity and narrow the earnings gap currently impacting tens of thousands Illinoisans with conviction records.
Improved public safety for communities across Illinois
Without equitable access to employment, 43% of all returning Illinoisans will be reincarcerated within three years. The rate of prison returns is correlated with both unemployment and lower wage work. This cycle undermines the safety and long-term economic stability of reentering individuals, as well as their families and communities. Illinois' high rate of recidivism is projected to cost the state $13 billion over the next five years.
By investing in high quality employment opportunities for returning Illinoisans, the SAFER Communities Act would significantly reduce rates of reincarceration. When people returning from prison become stably employed, their recidivism rates drop by 62%..
The Biden administration recently issued guidance on state level crime prevention policy, which included investment in jobs creation for formerly incarcerated residents.
Equitable economic recovery for local businesses
Public investment in wage subsidies and tax credits for small businesses would offer crucial relief to the thousands of employers experiencing long term economic challenges stemming from the COVID pandemic. Under the SAFER Communities Act, investment in local business would be available to all Illinois businesses, with increased levels of support targeted to businesses in communities disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.
In 2022, the Biden Administration released an updated directive on ARP funding through the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This most recent guidance identifies job creation for formerly incarcerated individuals as a key component to economic recovery.
WCRJ thanks the following groups for endorsing the SAFER Communities Act
ACLU of Illinois | Arise Chicago | Black Remembrance Project | TheBlackMall.com | Brighton Park Neighborhood Council | Centro Trabajadores Unidos | Community Renewal Society | Cafe 75 | Enlace | Giving Others Dreams | Indivisible Illinois | Illinois NOW | J & J Solutions | Jewish Council on Urban Affairs | LA Law Firm | Live Free Illinois | Mano a Mano Family Resource Center | Mothers Against Wrongful Convictions | The People's Lobby | People's Response Network | Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project | Raise the Floor Alliance | Southland Black Chamber of Commerce | Shriver Center on Poverty Law | United African Organization | Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois | Uptown People's Law Center