Illinois Bill To Pay Businesses That Hire Ex-Cons; Democratic Sponsor Says Felons Are ‘40 Percent’ Of State Population

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Over the weekend, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed off on a set of new laws intended to curb the State’s soaring rate of recidivism for ex-felons.

One, sponsored by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins (D-Chicago) and State Representative Arthur Turner (D-Chicago), raises the income tax credit for businesses that hire ex-felons from $600 to a new maximum of $1,500 per employee. Employers can receive the credit for five years, and they are eligible if they hire a qualifying ex-con within three years of release from prison.

While it’s true that well-intentioned ex-cons face tremendous legal and societal hurdles that often make the task of integrating into a fruitful post-prison role monumentally difficult, the trend must be an all-out epidemic in Illinois. CBS Chicago reports that Watkins touted the tax credit by observing it would benefit the State’s 4 million ex-felons; that’s 40 percent of the adult population.

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“They know they are not going to get a job, they know they can’t get in school, they can’t even volunteer in a children’s school if you have a criminal record,” Watkins said.

An Illinois retail industry advocate told the Chicago Tribune the tax credit “really doesn’t have cost to the state. In fact, it will pay the state back in the long run because these ex-offenders aren’t being hired today.”

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.