Letter to the Editor
FirstFollowers' Chris Miner, who also helps run TIME Scholars (an official RSO of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and his new non-profit, A Way In (an organization dedicated to removing obstacles to education for the formerly incarcerated), had the following letter published in the News-Gazette on April 22, 2019:
"Recently, Illinois House Bill 0217 was voted down in the Illinois House of Representatives. This bill would have restricted Illinois universities from asking about an applicant's criminal history on their application.
I believe that increasing accessibility to higher education would provide an opportunity to break the cycle of recidivism by making people with felony convictions more competitive in the labor market and more likely to be given a chance to succeed.
This would lead to safer communities as people would be less motivated to commit crime if they could realize gainful employment.
Being a formerly incarcerated person, I have firsthand experience of the barriers faced upon returning to society. A person with a felony conviction, who has completed their state-mandated punishment, has no protections against discrimination.
Employment, housing and education are three areas where you are often forced to check a box, self-disclosing your past transgressions.
After being rejected so many times, this can lead to a defeated feeling that brings you back to the same people, places and things that led to your incarceration in the first place. This is what feeds the recidivism narrative.
If you limit someone's access to housing, employment and educational opportunities, how do you expect them to succeed? Or, are you just hoping they won't succeed?"