Governor J.B. Pritzker is now the one holding the fate of people who have served prison sentences and are looking to reintegrate into society with Senate Bill 1462 awaiting the gubernatorial signature before it may be passed into law.
Senate Bill 1462 will not necessarily grant exclusive hiring rights to former cons, but it will certainly make the hiring pool a little broader, and it will allow for convicts who have not committed specific acts to be vetted and possibly hired into the hospitality industry, and casinos in particular.
The Illinois Gaming Board would still have a final say in the matter when convicts are being hired, as the regulator could not permit anyone who is deemed a threat to public safety, the state’s interests, or gaming integrity to work directly in the industry.
The implication of the gubernatorial signature could be quite significant, though. At least 1.5 million people in Illinois have some felony charges, which means that they are automatically struggling to find and secure employment, which pushes many into even more crime.
This is precisely the argument Sen. Robert Peters has delivered, arguing that making sure people have a choice and access to employment is something that would allow them to stay out of bad habits and backsliding into their own ways. Peters himself is an opponent of mass incarceration and has spoken avidly about the harm it causes to people’s lives in the long term:
Mass incarceration and profoundly deep income inequality are tied together. There is an inherent contradiction in saying that you want to be tough on crime while you are leaving people out of economic opportunity.
Sen. Robert Peters
Huge Opportunity and Demand for Willing Workers
At the same time, the bill could not have come at a better time, with a new casino resort on its way. The Freedom Center in River West is going to open a new casino in 2026, with some 6,000 jobs created in the process. Half of those are temporary and linked to the construction of the project, with $1.7 billion going down in the investment.
At the same time, 700 jobs are already available at a temporary site at Madinah Temple which launched earlier in the year. Gov. Pritzker should do right by Illinois citizens and help them get a second chance. Violent offenders and those guilty of particularly serious financial crimes would not be able to work in the industry under the current bill, however.