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THE COOK COUNTY RE-ENTRY EMPLOYMENT PROJECT

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Date Introduced: 4/20/2004
Date Passed:
4/20/2004

Sponsors:
Maldonado, Sims, Steele
Co-Sponsors:
Butler, Collins, Daley, Gorman, Goslin, Hansen, Moreno, Murphy, Peraica, Quigley, Silvestri, Suffredin

Summary:

Establishes the Re-entry Employment Demonstration Pilot Program. The goal of the program is to remove employment barriers faced by ex-offenders. When an ex-offender satisfies the requirements of the program, the Cook County Board of Commissioners will issue a Certificate of Completion. Participants who finish the program will become eligible for a 12 month internship program.


Full Text of Legislation:

WHEREWhere AS, Illinois has the ninth largest prison system in the United States; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, there are currently almost 44,000 individuals incarcerated by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) with an additional 35,000 under the Department’s supervision in the State of Illinois; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, there are now more than 11,000 persons incarcerated in the Cook County Department of Corrections; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, the majority of individuals currently incarcerated have committed non-violent offenses; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, the majority of these individuals upon release return to communities within Cook County; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, there are currently 425,000 formerly incarcerated individuals former offenders in Illinois with the majority residing in communities within Cook County; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, there are approximately 30,000 inmates scheduled to be released from IDOC institutions this year with more than 60% returning to Cook County; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, currently there is a 44% recidivism rate for former offenders released from state correctional facilities in Illinois; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, access to livable wage employment has proven to be a key factor in reducing the re-commission of crime and the rate of recidivism; and

 

WHEREWhere AS, the unemployment rate among former incarcerated individuals who are county residents is higher than the general population in large part due to the social stigma of being an ex-offender, unfair employment discrimination, and the lack of access to legal employment opportunities, education and vocational training within sectors of government and private industry due to current policies; and

WHEREWhere AS, government should be an exemplar to private industry in regards to providing equal opportunity for qualified individuals seeking employment.

 

 

BE IT ORDAINED, that the Cook County Board of Commissioners shall enact the following ordinance to establish a Re-entry Employment Demonstration Pilot Program with the goal of enrolling one hundred (100) adults who are former offenders and residents of the County and with the goal of removing barriers to Cook County government employment opportunities and to encourage participation by County officers and by private sector employers as a strategy for increasing public safety and reducing recidivism.

 

 

 

 

 

ARTICLE I.  GENERAL PROVISIONS

 

Section 1-1      This ordinance shall be known as the “Cook County Re-entry Employment Project Ordinance.”

 

Applicability

 

Section 1-2      (a)  This ordinance shall establish the provision for and control of the issuance of Certificates of Completion to first time nonviolent offenders by the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

 

                        (b)  This ordinance shall direct the Review Panel and the Cook County Board of Commissioners as to how to remove obstacles and encourage employment within Cook County government and with private sector employers who secure contracts from Cook County government for program participants who are nonviolent first time former offenders.

 

Severability

 

Section 1-3      If any section, subsection, paragraph, sentence or clause of this ordinance or the application thereof to any person is for any reason deemed to be invalid or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect, impair or invalidate any remaining section, subsection, paragraph, sentence or clause hereof or the application of this ordinance to any other person.

 

Effective Date

 

Section 1-4      (a)  This ordinance shall take effect thirty (30) days after its passage and publication.

 

(b)  Within 6 months after the implementation of this Pilot Project, the Review Panel shall report to the Cook County Board of Commissioners regarding the use, costs, effectiveness, and future viability of the Program as related to employability of first time nonviolent offenders.

 

 

ARTICLE II.  DEFINITIONS

 

Section 2-1      As used in the Cook County Re-Entry Employment Project Ordinance:

 

(a)  "Eligible offender" means a person who has been convicted of a crime or of an offense that is not a crime of violence as defined in Section 2 of the Crime Victims Compensation Act, a Class X or a non-probationable offense, or a violation of Article 11 or Article 12 of the Criminal Code of 1961, and who has not been convicted more than once of a felony.

(b)  "Felony" means a conviction of a felony in this State, or of an offense in any other jurisdiction for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year was authorized.

 

(c)  “Conviction” means a plea or a verdict of guilty upon which a sentence of probation, conditional discharge, supervision or incarceration has been imposed.

 

(i)   two or more convictions of felonies charged in separate counts of one indictment or information shall be deemed one conviction.

 

 

ARTICLE III.  THE POWERS AND DUTIES OF REVIEW PANEL

 

Section 3-1      Establishment of Review Panel

 

(a)  In order to facilitate the implementation of this Ordinance, the Board shall establish a Review Panel consisting of seven (7) five (5) members.

 

(b)  The members of the Review Panel shall be appointed as follows:  the Clerk of the Circuit Court appoints one (1) member; the Chief Judge appoints one (1) member; and the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners appoints three (3) members.

 

(c)  The Review Panel shall keep records of all of its official actions and shall make them accessible in accordance with law and the rules of the Review Panel.

 

(d)  Each member of the Review Panel and any hearing officer designated by the Review Panel shall have the power to administer oaths and to take the testimony of persons under oath.

 

(e)  Any written report submitted to the Review Panel under this Section is confidential and may not be made available to any person or public or private agency except if specifically required or permitted by operation of law or by authorization of the court.

 

(f)  The Review Panel shall interview each applicant and review each application for a county issued Certificate of Completion.  After the Review Panel has decided an applicant is eligible for a Certificate of Completion, the Review Panel shall make their recommendation to the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

 

(g)  In making such a recommendation, the Review Panel shall consider the following factors:

 

(1)  the public policy of Cook County and the State, to encourage the employment of persons previously convicted of one nonviolent criminal offense;

 

(2)  the specific duties and responsibilities necessarily related to the position being sought and recommendations from the Community Based Organization that conducted the work readiness training;

(3)  the bearing, if any, the criminal offense for which the person was previously convicted will have on his or her fitness or ability to perform one or more such duties and responsibilities;

 

(4)  the time which has elapsed since the occurrence of the criminal offense;

 

(5)  the age of the person at the time of occurrence of the criminal offense;

 

(6)  the seriousness of the offense;

 

(7)  any information produced by the person or produced on their behalf in regard to their good conduct and rehabilitation, including a State issued Certificate of Relief from Disabilities and/or Good Conduct , which Certificate shall create a presumption of rehabilitation in regard to the offense(s) specified in the certificates; and

 

(8)  the legitimate interest of Cook County in protecting property, and the safety and welfare of specific individuals and the general public.

 

(h)  The Review Panel shall report to the Cook County Board of Commissioners by November 30 of each year statistics for the prior year including the number of Certificates of Completion issued, the number of applicants with felony convictions, the number of applicants with misdemeanor convictions, the number of applicants with State issued Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and/or Good Conduct, the number of applicants with felony convictions denied Certificates of Completion and the number of applicants with Certificates of Completion employed in County government jobs.

 

ARTICLE IV.  COOK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS’ PARTICIPATION

 

Section 4.1      Issuance of Certificate of Completion

 

(a)  The Cook County Board of Commissioners shall have the power to issue a Certificate of Completion to any eligible offender who resides within this State and whose judgment of conviction was rendered by a court in this or any other jurisdiction.

 

(b)  The Cook County Board of Commissioners may, in their discretion, issue to an eligible offender a Certificate of Completion indicating the eligible offender’s behavior after conviction has warranted the issuance of the Certificate of Completion and such Certificate will support favorable consideration when employment is sought within Cook County Government or with designated County contractors.

 

(c)  The Certificate of Completion may not be issued to formerly incarcerated individuals  with misdemeanor convictions earlier than a period of six (6) months from the date of completion of the sentence upon which the conviction was imposed or one (1) year to those with one felony conviction subsequent to their release from County or State incarceration or supervision.

 

(d)  The Cook County Board of Commissioners by majority vote of a quorum, shall have the power to issue a Certificate of Completion to any eligible former offender previously convicted of a crime in this State, when the Board is satisfied that:

(1)  the person to whom it is to be granted is an eligible former offender, as defined in Section 2-1(a).

 

(2)  the goal of eliminating employment barriers that is facilitated by the grant of a Certificate is consistent with the guidelines of the Pilot Project for the eligible former offender and is otherwise consistent with public interest; and

 

(3)  the applicant has conducted him or herself in a manner warranting the issuance for the required minimum period and has successfully completed the designated employment readiness training.

 

 

Article V.  EMPLOYMENT READINESS TRAINING AND COUNTY INTERNSHIP

 

Section 5-1      Completion of Designated Employment Readiness Training and Internship as Prerequisite to Certificate of Completion

 

In order for formerly incarcerated individuals who are first time nonviolent offenders and residents of the County to be issued a Certificate of Completion they must have successfully completed a Board approved employment readiness training program, a twelve (12) month County Internship Program, and be in receipt of documentation to that effect which is to be submitted as the primary evidence of their employment readiness to the Review Panel for consideration of Certificate of Completion issuance. Other documents may also be submitted to further support the participant’s status of rehabilitation as related to education, vocational training, employment and/or volunteer experience. Participants with State issued Certificates of Good Conduct, Certificates of Relief from Disabilities or State professional/occupational licenses shall be afforded favorable consideration when applying for participation in the Project as well as for employment.

 

Section 5-2      Ex-Offender Employment Readiness Program

 

As the first phase for an individual to become eligible for a Cook County issued Certificate of Completion, s/he would need to complete a job readiness program specifically designed for former offenders and designated by the Cook County Board of Commissioners as a qualifying training program.

 

 

Such a training program shall provide intake and screening services to identify needs of each participant and develop a specific employability training plan. All training plans shall include core modules to address, in a holistic approach, the special needs of former offenders seeking employment within the County and/or with designated County contractors. The modules shall include information/education, skill building and behavioral modification techniques in the areas of cognitive restructuring, resume preparation, interviewing, alcohol and substance abuse prevention, anger management and conflict resolution, and relationships in the work place.

 

 

The designated Community Based Organization providing training shall also have referral agreements in place with educational institutions and social service agencies for participants to access supportive services for assistance with food, clothing, housing, substance abuse counseling, GED classes, vocational training, and family reunification services. The work readiness program shall also include an aftercare component which will serve as an on-going support system for candidates who have successfully completed the core training modules.

 

Eligibility criteria for admission to the former offender work-readiness training program shall be established by the community based organizations that are operating such programs with the specific inclusion of the following: Participants must be screened for motivation to participate in the program, history of drug and alcohol use/abuse, mental health history, type of offense committed, criminal record, current immediate support  needs (housing, food, clothing, temporary emergency financial assistance, etc.), employment history, educational background, and willingness to change their thinking and behavior.

 

Section-5-3      County Internship Program

 

Upon successful completion of the Employment Readiness Training program, participants shall become eligible for a twelve (12) month Internship Program.  The Internship Program will have the goal of one hundred (100) entry level positions in Cook County government that are identified as vacant in each fiscal year budget.  Participants will be paid the salary consistent with the grade level budgeted for each vacant position as well as all county health benefits.

 

Participants will not be considered for positions where there is a direct relationship between the previous criminal offense and the specific job sought, or if the employment of the participant would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

 

Upon successful completion of the designated internship, participants may then petition the Review Panel for the issuance of a Certificate of Completion. Once issued, participants may then apply for an appropriate full time position that is available with the County and/or participating private sector employers. 

 

 

ARTICLE VI.  IMPACT OF COUNTY ISSUED CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION

 

Section 6-1      This Section shall not affect the right of a person to collaterally attack his conviction or to rely on it in bar of subsequent proceedings for the same offense.

                       

(a)  A Certificate of Completion does not, however, in any way prevent any judicial proceeding, administrative, licensing, or other body, board, or authority from relying upon the conviction specified in the Certificate of Completion as the basis for the exercise of its discretionary power to suspend, revoke, or refuse to issue or refuse to renew any license, permit, or other authority or privilege.

 

(b)  A Certificate of Completion shall not limit or prevent the introduction of evidence of a prior conviction for purposes of impeachment of a witness in a judicial or other proceeding where otherwise authorized by the applicable rules of evidence.

 

(c)  A Certificate of Completion may not in any way prevent any judicial proceeding, administrative, licensing, or other body, board, or authority from considering the conviction specified in the certificate.

 

(d)  A  Certificate of Completion shall not limit or prevent the introduction of evidence of a prior conviction for purposes of impeachment of a witness in a judicial or other proceeding where otherwise authorized by the applicable rules of evidence.

(e)  A Certificate of Completion is not to be deemed to be a pardon. Nothing contained in this Ordinance shall be deemed to alter or limit or affect the manner of applying for pardons to the Governor, and no certificate issued under this Ordinance shall be deemed or construed to be a Pardon.

 

Section 6-2      Grievance Process

 

It is not the intention of this Ordinance or the actions of the Review Panel or the Board of Cook County Commissioners to replace or substitute any employee grievance process that currently exists in County government.  This Ordinance does not preclude a participant from exercising any due process rights that may be available to them.

 

(a)  If a participant is subject to an adverse action by their employer/supervisor and a grievance procedure exists to address the employee’s issue, the participant must exhaust the process for redress.

 

(b)  This ordinance does not create a separate or alternative grievance process for participants to seek redress from an adverse action taken against them.

 

 

ARTICLE VII.  REVOCATION OF CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION

 

Section 7.1      In revoking a Certificate of Completion, the action of the Cook County Board of Commissioners shall be by majority vote of the members.

 

(a)  Revocation  shall be upon notice to the person,          who shall be accorded an opportunity to contest the grounds of revocation prior to a decision to revoke the Certificate of Completion.

     

(b)  Any such person possessing a Certificate of Completion shall upon receipt of the determination of revocation, surrender the certificate to the Cook County Board of Commissioners or its designee.

 

(c)  A person who knowingly uses or attempts to use a revoked Certificate of Completion in order to obtain or to exercise any right or privilege that they would not be entitled to obtain or to exercise without a valid Certificate of Completion is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

 

(d)  If the program participant is involuntarily terminated from their employment with Cook County for cause, the Certificate of Completion will automatically be revoked.

 

 

 

ARTICLE VIII.  FORMS AND FILING

 

 

Section 8-1      (a)  All applications, certificates, and orders of revocation necessary for the purposes of this Ordinance shall be upon forms prescribed under an agreement among the Review Panel, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Cook County Board of Commissioners or their designees. The forms relating to Certificates of Completion shall be distributed by the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

 

(b)  A copy of each Certificate of Completion issued shall be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court.  Documentation reflecting the revocation of a Certificate of Completion shall also be filed with Clerk of the Circuit Court.


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