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More than 1,000 Illinois laws punish people long after incarceration, advocacy group says

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(The Center Square) – Illinois has more than 1,000 state laws that an advocacy group said punish people long after being arrested or convicted of a crime.

There are about 3.3 million people who have either been arrested or convicted of a crime in Illinois. The Heartland Alliance analyzed Illinois statutes and found nearly 1,200 laws that punish people for having a criminal record, often indefinitely.

“According to our research, there are 1,189 sanctions in the State of Illinois, written in both compiled statutes and administrative codes, that create long-lasting barriers for people with criminal legal records,” the report said. “These state laws collectively act in 1,260 ways, at times overlapping, and impacting people’s access to housing, employment, education, and other opportunities.”

For instance, there are laws that limit where a former offender can live or how they can earn a living.

Heartland Alliance Research Director Katie Buitrago said they coined them “permanent punishments” because the laws continue to punish formerly-incarcerated people years after they’re out of prison.

“They often last for somebody’s lifetime, even decades after they’ve been involved with the criminal legal system,” she said.

The laws are frequently passed as public safety measures, but Buitrago said they often have the opposite effect.

“There’s a lot of research showing that people who have housing instability or job instability are more likely to commit another crime,” she said.

These laws disproportionately affect Black Illinoisans because they make up an outsized proportion of those who are arrested or convicted of crimes as a comparison to their percentage of the total Illinois population.

“Because of racism at every single step in the criminal justice system, Black people are disproportionately represented among people with records,” Buitrago said.

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