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WCRJ and CRGE Introduce SAFER Communities Act

This past week in Springfield, State Representative Lamont Robinson, in partnership with the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ), introduced the Securing All Futures through Equitable Reinvestment (SAFER) Communities Act. This groundbreaking legislation, which was conceived of and advanced by WCRJ’s council of formerly incarcerated members, aims to reverse Illinois’ inhumane practice of mass incarceration and create high quality employment opportunities for job seekers with conviction records.

The SAFER Communities Act (HB 3120) proposes an achievable plan for Illinois to reverse mass incarceration, foster job creation, invest in local business, and grow the state economy. HB 3120 would implement retroactive reform of Illinois’ overly punitive and racially targeted mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The immediate surplus of public dollars secured through decarceration would fund a tax credit program, designed to incentivize local employers to hire applicants with conviction histories. The SAFER Communities Act offers Illinois a bold new vision of what neighborhood safety can look like when we divest from systems, such as prisons and law enforcement, that perpetuate racialized structural inequity, and reinvest in initiatives that foster opportunity and justice for all.

By enacting initial reform of the state’s draconian sentencing laws, HB 3120 would take a decisive step towards dismantling Illinois’ destructive and costly system of mass incarceration. The SAFER Communities Act proposes retroactive elimination of mandatory minimum sentences. Individuals currently detained in state prisons would be eligible for resentencing appeals in accordance with bill’s retroactive reform measures, returning thousands of Illinoisans to their families and communities.

The SAFER Communities Act would also promote 20,000 new high quality jobs for previously incarcerated workers in Illinois. HB 3120 would incentivize hiring by offering employers tax credits of up to $15,000 annually for employing previously incarcerated workers for new, full time, living wage positions for at least 24 months. Increased financial investment and elevated employment rates would also have resoundingly positive implications for local residents and businesses in communities most adversely impacted by decades of mass incarceration and systemic disinvestment.

This legislative session WCRJ will call upon lawmakers to withdraw taxpayer dollars from the state’s toxic prison system, and responsibly invest in the SAFER Communities employment program, which will create jobs, support Illinois businesses and boost local economies. As we advance HB 3120 through the state legislature, WCRJ is committed to amplifying the voices and priorities of individuals most directly affected by Illinois’ inhumane prison system.  WCRJ gratefully acknowledges Representative Lamont Robinson and Raise the Floor for their invaluable dedication to bringing this critical piece of legislation to the Illinois General Assembly.

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