Two Bills Encourage Education behind Bars
Two new bills are progressing through Illinois’s state legislature that are designed to encourage inmates get education while incarcerated. One bill rewards educational achievements with sentence credit, while another makes it easier to get a criminal record sealed.
Sentence Credit Bill
Under House Bill 3884, an inmate who passed the GED test would be rewarded with 90 days of sentence credit, or time deducted from the prison sentence. The educational requirement must be completed while the inmate is incarcerated or while in pretrial detention. The bill would increase the days of credit from the 60 days allowed under the current law, and the credit could be added to any other credit earned from the other programs listed in the statute. It only applies to inmates who have not previously graduated from high school or gotten their GEDs.
The bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, passed the House with a vote of 95–19. It is currently in committee in Senate. Rep. Anthony has spoken in support of the bill, noting that passing the GED exam helps inmates transition back into society and makes it easier for them to obtain employment after release.
Record Sealing Bill
House Bill 3149, which was sponsored by Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, allows a nonviolent felony offender to petition for a criminal record to be sealed after completing certain educational achievements. The record can be sealed at the completion of the sentence.
Sealing a record means that the record can no longer be seen by the public. Importantly for many offenders, this includes prospective employers. However, a sealed record can still be seen by law enforcement, and a judge may order that the sealed record be made available to the public again. Additionally, some employers can still see a sealed record, including when offenders apply to work at hospitals or schools, or as firefighters or police officers.
The petition to seal a record for educational achievements is available for some misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Not all records are eligible to be sealed in Illinois. Records that are eligible include most misdemeanors and some less serious felonies, including prostitution, some drug crimes, theft, and forgery.
There are several ways to complete the educational requirement: the offender can earn a high school diploma, GED, associate’s degree, career certificate, vocational technical certification, or bachelor’s degree, as long as he or she has not already achieved that level of education. The education may be completed during the sentence, aftercare release, or mandatory supervised release.
If the petition is granted, the record may be sealed at the end of the sentence. But if the petition for sealing is denied, the applicable waiting period listed in the statute will determine when the offender can again petition for sealing. The statute provides that some offenses may be sealed at any time, while others may be sealed after three or four years, or after the offender reaches age 25.
The bill passed the Illinois House 94–20, and is currently in committee in the Senate.
If you have been charged with or arrested for a crime, it is essential to obtain experienced legal representation. Contact the Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC to discuss your case today.