The public generally believes that if the formerly incarcerated obey laws and avoid pushing back against the status quo, they will be redeemed as good citizens. However, this narrative is simply not true.

Clipboards with voter registration forms sit on a table in 2020.Consider this: Some 3.3 million adults have been arrested or convicted of a crime in Illinois since 1979. Most of the 277,000 people released from prison in Illinois every year return to Cook County. Yet only a fraction of these individuals have seats at the tables where decisions are being made about the direction, values and investments made by our state and communities.

These individuals live in our communities. They are significant contributors to our state’s economy, both as consumers and taxpayers. But unfortunately, these contributions have not translated into political power or proper representation, inhibiting them from influencing policy decisions or prioritizing issues they care about, like ending the web of laws that inflict permanent punishments.

One way to begin making change is by voting, something those with felony convictions too often don’t know is possible. We’re working to change that, leading up to the all-important municipal election in February.

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