Felony Convictions: Bill Would Amend Ban on Ex-Offenders Working in Schools

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, Illinois criminal statutesFelony convictions have far-reaching consequences beyond incarceration, fines, or probation. One major problem is the effect that a conviction can have on employment opportunities. A new bill going through the Illinois legislature may ameliorate that problem for convicted felons. The bill would remove a lifetime ban on employment in schools for some people convicted of nonviolent felonies.

The Bill

House Bill 494 is being sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago. The bill would mean that school districts could not automatically bar employment for a nonviolent felony conviction that was over seven years old at the time of the application for employment. For nonviolent felonies less than seven years old, the state would not bar employment at schools. The bill would instead provide for local control of the issue, and school districts would be able to make their own rules for hiring. The seven-year waiting period would begin at the end of the sentence, whether involving jail time or probation.

Under the bill, the category of nonviolent felonies would be expanded slightly. While sex offenses, murder, and other serious offenses create a ban on employment or licensure by school districts, certain drug offenses would no longer permanently bar employment. The possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis, or the manufacture, delivery, or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver up to 10 grams of cannabis would be in the nonviolent felony category. Conviction for such an offense would not permanently bar employment or licensure. Instead, schools would have discretion to bar employment for up to seven years, and would be prohibited from barring employment after seven years had elapsed.

The bill has passed the House, and is currently being discussed in the Senate Education Committee. If it passes, it will take effect immediately.

Current Law

Currently, an offender is permanently barred from employment at a school district if convicted of:

  • Sexual or physical abuse of a minor
  • Certain narcotics offenses;
  • Sexual offenses;
  • Murder; or
  • Class X felonies, which are the most serious felonies in Illinois.

For purposes of the current ban, narcotics offenses do not include the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis, or the manufacture, delivery, or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver up to 10 grams of cannabis. For nonviolent offenders, the state bars employment for seven years.

Benefits of the Bill

One main benefit of the bill is the reduction in recidivism that comes with employment. The current recidivism rate in Illinois is 47 percent. However, the recidivism rate for offenders who obtain full-time employment after being released from prison can be as low as 15 percent. Lower recidivism would save taxpayer dollars and relieve the burden on Illinois prisons, which are currently operating at more than 150 percent capacity. Additionally, rehabilitated nonviolent felons working in the school system can contribute to the community. Their experiences can even help them to better understand and work with troubled youth.

If you have been charged with a felony, if is essential to understand the consequences a conviction can have. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for an initial consultation.