State Panel to Address Data Gaps in Racial and Ethnic Identities of Arrestees

(Chicago, IL) – Illinois lawmakers concerned about incomplete demographic profiles of arrestees have created a panel to develop a comprehensive system to collect and analyze police data.

On August 16, Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 2271, which creates the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force. This panel will develop a method for the standardized collection and analysis of data on racial and ethnic identity of arrestees by law enforcement. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and State Representative LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago).

The panel came about following the recommendations of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a statewide, bipartisan group established in 2008 to examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on racial and ethnic groups. Through its independent research efforts, the Commission found gaps in relevant data that would allow for a comprehensive statistical analysis of the impact of these laws.

As an example of data gaps, 99 percent of Illinois State Police arrestees currently are classified as either Black or white, with unknown percentages of people of Latino or other ethnic origins.

“We know it’s essential for public policy to be built on data and research, not on anecdotes and intuition,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC). “The absence of a standardized method to collect and analyze arrestee data impedes both a fair assessment of the extent of the problem and a rational basis for a sound solution to advance racial justice in Illinois.”

The new task force will also work on the development of a process that will provide Racial and Ethnic Impact Statements to state legislators. Such statements will provide a prospective analysis of the likely racial and ethnic identity of arrestees under any proposed future changes to the state’s criminal laws.

“I would like to congratulate Governor Quinn, Senator Hunter and Representative Ford for their leadership and support,” said Rodriguez.

In addition to Representative Ford, House sponsors included State Representatives Mary Flowers (D), Esther Golar (D), and André Thapedi (D).

The task force, which will be staffed by TASC’s Center for Health and Justice, will hold at least one public hearing and will provide a final report with policy recommendations to the Illinois General Assembly.

TASC, Inc. has a 35-year history of promoting social justice and providing alternatives to incarceration in Illinois. TASC’s Racial Justice Initiative, including dissemination of the findings of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, has received generous support from The Chicago Community Trust.

Governor Pat Quinn Approves Law to Improve Employment Chances for Former Offenders

(Chicago, IL) – Governor Pat Quinn has approved an additional mission for a state employment oversight panel: review existing job regulations that could be revised to help former offenders get jobs.

Quinn signed legislation, House Bill 297, that directs the Illinois Task Force on Inventorying Employment Restrictions to submit to his office and the Illinois General Assembly findings and recommendations regarding employment restrictions–not related to public safety–that could be changed to improve job opportunities for those have paid their debt to society.

Sponsored by State Representative Connie Howard (D-Chicago) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), the new law requires all state agencies under the Governor to produce a report describing restrictions that could be eased or be eliminated based on criminal records for each occupation under their offices.

“Ultimately, the new law may help remove a barrier to employment for qualified applicants who’ve been involved in the justice system,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).

“Discriminating against qualified job applicants is no way to boost employment or reduce recidivism,” added Rodriguez. “Fortunately, Represenative Howard, Senator Raoul and Governor Quinn recognize that employment discrimination will not move the state forward.”

In addition to Representative Howard, House sponsors included State Representatives Mary Flowers (D), Monique Davis (D), Marlow Colvin (D), and Camille Lilly (D).

In addition to Senator Raoul, State Senator Donne Trotter (D) co-sponsored the legislation.

The task force will report its findings to the Governor and General Assembly by September 1, 2012.

Racial Justice: Gov. Pat Quinn OKs Panel to Tackle African-American Economic, Social Disparities

(Chicago, IL) – To address economic and social inequalities faced by African Americans in Illinois, the state legislature this year overwhelmingly approved and Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that creates the Commission to End the Disparities Facing the African-American Community.

The measure, House Bill 1547, sponsored by State Representative Monique Davis (D-Chicago) and State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), charges the new 31-member, unpaid panel to research and make policy recommendations regarding disparities facing African Americans in areas of health care, employment, education, criminal justice, and housing.

“Representative Davis and Senator Hunter deserve credit for spearheading this important racial justice legislation,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).

“Racial justice demands that Illinois have a comprehensive strategy for ending current social and economic disparities faced daily by African Americans, disparities which have only deepened with onset of the economic crisis in 2008,” Rodriguez added.

In addition to Representative Davis, House sponsors included State Representatives Cynthia Soto (D), Annazette Collins (D), Camille Lilly (D), LaShawn Ford (D), Eddie Lee Jackson (D), Charles Jefferson (D), Susana Mendoza (D), Greg Harris (D), Mary Flowers (D), Marlow Colvin (D), Lisa Dugan (D), Patrick Verschoore (D), and Robert Rita (D).

In addition to Senator Hunter, Senate sponsors included State Senators Jacqueline Collins (D) and Donne Trotter (D).

The commission, which will make its recommendations to the Illinois General Assembly by December 31, 2013, will hold at least one public hearing.

To Combat Discrimination, Illinois Judges Can Now Seal Arrest, Trial Records of Persons Innocent, Acquitted of Criminal Charges

(Chicago, IL) – Discrimination can haunt even the innocent. Job seekers who have been arrested for a felony crime, but found innocent still face discrimination when seeking employment and housing because the original arrest record has been required to be a public record.

Until now.

Thanks to new, bi-partisan legislation, House Bill 298, sponsored by State Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago) and State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) and approved by Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois judges now have the discretion to seal felony arrest and trial records that ended in either dismissal or acquittal of charges or reversal of a conviction.

“Denying a job or an apartment to an innocent person is discrimination,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).  “This law will help advance social justice in both employment and housing.”

Rodriguez also praised the law’s sponsors and the Governor.

“Representative Howard, Senator Lightford,  the bill’s co-sponsors, and Governor Quinn have rendered a public service to those who face employment and housing discrimination,” said Rodriguez.

In addition to Howard, House sponsors included State Representatives Mary Flowers (D), Marlow Colvin (D), Robyn Gabel (D), Al Riley (D), Lisa Dugan (D), Patrick Verschoore (D) Camille Lilly (D), Arthur Turner (D), La Shawn Ford (D), Rita Mayfield (D), Patricia Bellock (R), and Derrick Smith (D).

In addition to Lightford, Senate sponsors included State Senators Jacqueline Collins (D) Mattie Hunter (D), Thomas Johnson (R), Kwame Raoul (D), Iris Martinez (D), Donne Trotter (D), Toi Hutchinson (D) and Emil Jones, III (D).

The new law reflects one of the 10 key recommendations made by the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a statewide, bipartisan group established in 2008 to examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on racial and ethnic groups. The Commission’s final report, released to the Illinois legislature in December 2010, recommended that the State prohibit the inclusion of drug-related arrests that do not result in conviction in criminal histories collected for employment-related purposes.

The law, signed by Quinn on August 19, is effective immediately.

TASC, Inc. has a 35-year history of promoting social justice and providing alternatives to incarceration in Illinois. TASC’s Racial Justice Initiative, including dissemination of the findings of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, has received generous support from The Chicago Community Trust.