Much of IMAN’s organizing effort this year has been focused on the issue of parole reform in Illinois. Under the existing laws, formerly incarcerated men & women across the state were at risk of recidivism—or being sent back to prison—if they were found “associating” with others who were also on parole. These individuals, even when volunteering at community organizations like IMAN, attending worship services, or visiting family members, were subject to arrest. In response to such harsh technicalities, IMAN organizers spent months pushing Senate Bill 2282, the Removing Invisible Bars Bill, which has now passed through both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives with a strong, bipartisan majority.
IMAN Senior Policy Advisor Maaria Mozaffar and Green ReEntry Housing Coordinator Nasir Blackwell collaborated to draft SB 2282 in early 2016. This crucial bill will, God willing, ultimately amend the stringent conditions of parole that puts formerly incarcerated persons at risk for recidivism. Now, these recently returned community members can engage in meaningful volunteer work, worship, and family visits without fear of arrest. This issue impacts thousands of people across Illinois, particularly those coming from five neighborhoods in Chicago: Austin, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Englewood, West Englewood, and East Garfield Park.
A number of legislative allies played a pivotal role in garnering support for SB 2282. State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) introduced the bill and worked closely with Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) and IMAN organizers to ensure its passage through the chamber free from dissent. In the House, Representative Mary Flowers (D-31st) was the bill’s chief co-sponsor, helping to garner strong bipartisan support with help from several other representatives.
IMAN’s organizational partners and allies also played a critical role in the grassroots education and mobilization efforts around SB 2282. United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) hosted community education workshops focused on the context and potential impact of SB 2282. Many of IMAN’s community partners played a key role in mobilizing their leaders, traveling to Springfield to encourage legislators towards a yes vote.
SB 2282 has now proceeded to Governor Rauner’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. While IMAN will continue working to provide grassroots education on the effects of SB 2282 and its connection to the larger national criminal justice platform, the bill’s passage is a meaningful first step towards a more just and equitable life for all members of our communities.