Legislation is making its way through the Illinois General Assembly that would prevent colleges from asking prospective students about their criminal past until after the student has been admitted.
As a criminal defense attorney, this proposal is a step in the right direction for helping minor offenders put a past mistake behind them and get back on the right path. It’s not uncommon for schools to deny admission simply because a student had a minor marijuana charge on their record for a stupid mistake back in high school. By denying students the opportunity to advance their education, we’re creating a system that continues to punish youth offenders long after they’ve made amends for their actions.
That’s the same sentiment shared by Rep. Barbara Wheeler, who sponsored HB 4446. The Crystal Lake Republican said the bill would make it easier for teenagers to get into college and turn their lives around.
“This bill is part of the overarching idea that education and meaningful employment helps reduce recidivism,” Wheeler said. “This provides an opportunity for students — adult students, young students — who may have had a criminal record. It gives them an opportunity to apply for school without feeling any roadblocks or having any roadblocks.”
The House Higher Education Committee approved the bill by a vote of 16-1 earlier this week. The proposal will now head to the full House, where it will likely be met with some opposition. Some lobbyists feel that the bill fails to protect students who are already on campus, but others believe the bill is rooted in good intentions.
We’ve already explained how to get into college with a criminal record and how to job hunt with a criminal past, but this bill would help low-level, minor offenders keep their past in the past and push forward for a brighter future. Hopefully it is seen in a favorable light by the House.