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Friday Letters: Seal criminal records of ex-offenders

Inmates exiting building No. 19 at the Vienna Correctional Center in Vienna, Ill.

Seal criminal records

The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board identified an important problem in its Nov. 24 editorial, “Prison ‘reform’ can’t be a revolving door.” The editorial board correctly noted that nearly half of ex-offenders in Illinois return to prison within three years, and cited the inability to find work as a major driver behind this problem.

However, the editorial board’s suggestion to spend more on jobs training and granting ex-offenders access to Pell grants isn’t the right solution. Those measures would prepare people for jobs they can’t get in Illinois.

Here’s the real problem: Nearly every felony conviction carries a life sentence in the form of a permanent criminal record, which bars ex-offenders from employment.

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The Sun-Times Editorial Board rightly points to expanding Adult Redeploy, which diverts people into drug treatment and mental-health programs instead of prison, and does not enter a conviction on their record. Not surprisingly, the program can reduce recidivism by 20 percent.

But what about ex-offenders who don’t qualify for diversion programs?

In 2013, Illinois passed a law allowing ex-offenders to petition to have their records sealed, meaning only law enforcement and certain types of employers, such as schools, can see an ex-offender’s criminal record. But a person is only eligible for sealing after waiting two to three years from the end of his or her sentence, and not all ex-offenders are eligible.

Illinois can break the cycle of crime and truly give ex-offenders a second chance by broadening sealing and expungement and eliminating wait times altogether.

Ex-offenders who have paid their debt should be allowed to move on with their lives and re-enter society in a meaningful way. By taking the right path on reform, Illinois can become a leader in breaking down the real barriers that prevent capable men and women from finding good work in the first place.

Hilary Gowins, managing editor, Illinois Policy Institute

Syrian immigrants rigorously vetted

The perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Paris had either French or Belgian passports. The one Syrian passport was found to be a forgery and a plant. Why are our governors and Republican presidential candidates going ballistic over Syrian immigration? There are Syrian immigrants who have already gone through the rigorous vetting process necessary for admission to our country. Why are some “leaders” determined to turn them and others away?

Donald Trump, a leader in the Republican presidential race, has even suggested registering and “monitoring” Muslims already here in the United States. This sounds like what was done to the Jews in the run up to the holocaust. We are one of the safe havens for freedom of speech and freedom to live our lives in peace in the world. This rhetoric will not destroy threats to our nation. The real threat to our way of life is the toxic rhetoric being spewed by politicians in an attempt to appeal to a political base that often refuses to accept facts when their prejudices are better served by excessive reality bending rhetoric.

Refugees from all over the world come to the United States trying to find a place to live where they can safely work, their children can safely walk to school, and where they know their home will be there at the end of the day. If we allow a misguided fear of the “other” to change our nation, we will be losing the very nation we claim to be protecting. If we allow political rhetoric to change how we live, we will have lost the very life we claim to be fighting for.

Karen Wagner, Rolling Meadows

Chicken-hearted leaders

When did my country become so chicken-hearted? What happened to the home of the brave? While France, the country where the terrorist atrocities took place, heroically announced its intention to honor its commitment to the refugees, our hysterically fearful leaders like Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidates for president, and the majority of the House of Representatives want to shut the door on refugees fleeing from a crisis we played no small role in helping to create.

None of the Paris attackers was a refugee. I just cannot see Patrick Henry, George Washington or Thomas Jefferson quaking in their boots like Marco Rubio over the remote possibility that a refugee might be a future terrorist. Rubio should be especially ashamed. We opened our doors to Cuban refugees during the Mariel boatlift despite knowing that Fidel Castro had released some criminals as part of the exodus. We did this because it was the right thing to do. The honorable President Hollande of France makes our tough-talking politicians look like the fearful, cynical wimps they are.

Timothy J Wilson, Lisle

Ban derogatory logo

Rick Telander’s Nov. 22 column aptly asserted that the NFL should ban the derogatory logo “Redskins” used by Washington’s football team.

Indian Americans are this nation’s only indigenous people. They were brutally massacred, exploited, maligned and displaced by settlers. Native Indians are arguably the most enlightened of all peoples in the country evidenced by their spiritual respect for the Creator, Earth, nature and all animal species. The NFL wrongfully has tolerance for domestic violence perpetrators and dog-fighting ringleaders. They lose even more credibility by allowing the disparaging “Redskins” logo to be acceptable.

Brien Comerford, GlenviewTell the truth

It certainly seems we are not often being told the truth by our elected officials.

There seems to be a new example of withholding the truth from the citizenry on a daily basis. The bottom line is we have a right to the truth. In a world where so much information, and disinformation, floods our senses it is more important than ever to demand nothing short of the truth from all of our public servants, all the time.

When someone deliberately deprives us of the truth, it doesn’t just make them just a liar, it also makes them a thief, because they have stolen our right to the truth. They say the truth is its own defense, and in a free society, it can be both powerful ally or a formidable foe. Irregardless, as citizens of a free country, we all have a right to the truth. On this we can never waiver.

Mike Simon, Glen Ellyn