Rehabilitated constituent, now a doctoral student, turned down for job because of criminal record

Harmon and Williams 350Quintin Williams has a dynamite resume, one that many employers would shuffle to the top of the pile of applicants.

The fourth-year Loyola University student is earning a doctorate degree in sociology. He teaches as part of his fellowship, and his students – his “kids,” as he calls them – give him overwhelmingly positive evaluations for his work in the classroom. He is 33 years old, married and has a 4-year-old son.

But following a recent interview for a teaching position, he learned he wouldn’t be hired because “they didn’t want their students to be influenced by ‘someone like me,’” he recalled Wednesday.

That’s because Williams is forever bound to a record for crimes he committed as a teenager and in his early 20s – crimes that he acknowledges were wrong and for which he paid his debt to society.

Since then, thanks in large part to his faith and to the countless people who saw potential in him along the way, Williams has dedicated himself to his work, his studies and his family. He’s stayed out of trouble, worked several jobs, earned college degrees and participated in anti-violence efforts.

“It just hurt my feelings,” Williams said of the sting of the words “someone like you” when he was turned down for the teaching job. “I thought, they don’t even know me. Did they read the evaluations my kids wrote or about the impact I had on their lives? I take my job seriously.”

Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, believes it is unfair for every adult who committed crimes as youth to be denied employment, housing and educational opportunities for the rest of their lives. He sponsored legislation that makes it easier for people to have certain arrests sealed by a judge in Illinois, thereby eliminating an unnecessary, unfair, lifetime barrier to those opportunities. The measure passed in the Senate Tuesday and will go to the governor’s desk.

“We’re not letting just anybody seal any criminal record. We’re creating a process by which somebody can go to court and request their records sealed, and a judge will make that determination,” said Harmon, who is Williams’ state senator.

“It goes against the whole idea of paying your debt to society that we have barriers that shackle men and women to a document that forever deprives them of employment, housing and education that enables them take care of themselves and their families.”

The National Employment Law Project estimates, using U.S. Department of Justice statistics, that 42 percent of Illinois adults have a criminal record, whether it’s an arrest or some other brush with the law.

Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) sponsored the legislation in the House. It is an initiative of The Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois, which includes the Heartland Alliance, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the Community Renewal Society, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the FORCE Project (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality).

Williams thanked Harmon and Lilly for being consistent champions of the initiative and shepherding it through the General Assembly. He said he intends to petition a judge to seal his record should the legislation be signed into law by the governor. He just started a new job as a workforce research and policy fellow with the Heartland Alliance, and his career plans include policy and human services work combined with teaching.

“This bill will give me opportunities without facing the stigma of something I did long ago,” Williams said. “And it will help thousands of other people who are way more talented than me and better than me in many ways by giving them opportunities to give back to the world, as well.”

Pictured above: Quintin Williams meets with State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on Tuesday, May 30.

Category: News

Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today (May 30) regarding his votes on a pair of property tax freeze measures taken up by the Illinois Senate:

Nobody likes paying property taxes. They’re unfair, they’re too high and they’re a burden. Don’t forget the reason why our property taxes are so high – we have an outdated tax system that ties local funding to property wealth. Property taxes pay for our schools, sidewalks, sewer lines, firetrucks, police cars, playgrounds, libraries and community colleges. Freeze local property taxes, and you freeze money for local services. That’s OK if it’s what local taxpayers want to do.

The Senate voted today to give local taxpayers two years to take a property tax freeze for a test drive and see if they like the results. If they do, we can take another vote in the General Assembly. The governor wanted a permanent freeze, but two years is a compromise that attempts to find a middle ground without causing permanent harm to schools and local governments.

I supported two bills in the Senate today to freeze property taxes because that’s what my constituents have told me they want and because Gov. Rauner has indicated that doing so will help move him toward a budget resolution. But let me be perfectly clear: the way to bring down Illinois’ skyrocketing property taxes isn’t a freeze that ties the hands of school districts and village halls. We need to adopt a fair income tax system in which people with lower incomes pay lower income taxes rates and people with higher incomes pay higher tax rates. Then we need the state to live up to its obligation to fund schools so that they aren’t so heavily reliant upon local property taxes.

In short, a fair income tax coupled with fair school funding reform is the answer to Illinois’ property tax woes. I look forward to Gov. Rauner throwing his enthusiastic support behind both.

Category: News

BobcatIllinois would halt bobcat hunting in most northern counties for two years to allow time for more scientific research about the animal’s population under legislation approved by the state Senate Monday, May 29.

House Bill 3399 was sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and was the result of lengthy negotiations among Harmon, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Trappers Association.

“I am pleased that we were able to work with DNR and the trappers to set aside time for collecting more information about the bobcat population in the northern part of the state. We have quite a bit of information about the animals in southern Illinois, but we would like to know more about their habits and movements up north,” Harmon said.

“Ultimately, our goal is to make sure the bobcat population is strong enough to withstanding hunting and trapping statewide so that these animals don’t end up back on Illinois’ threatened species list.”

House Bill 3399 places a two-year ban on bobcat hunting and trapping in most counties in the Northern Illinois Hunting Zone, except for counties in the west and northwest portion of Illinois along the Mississippi River.

During the two-year ban, limits will be placed on the number of bobcats that can be taken in the Southern Zone and in the exempted counties. A maximum of 350 will be allowed during the 2017-2018 hunting season, and 375 will be allowed during the 2018-2019 season.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources issued 500 bobcat permits statewide during Illinois’ first bobcat hunting and trapping season since the 1970s, which ended Jan. 31. The top harvest counties were in the southern half of the state: Pike, Jackson, Jefferson, Carroll and Randolph counties.

House Bill 3399 previously passed in the House and now goes to the governor’s desk.

Category: News

Harmon05292017The most meaningful reform Gov. Bruce Rauner can sign into law after two years of gridlock in Springfield is a balanced budget, Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said today (May 29, 2017).

“Citizens and businesses in Illinois need predictability, stability and certainty, and Senate Democrats are offering that with a balanced budget,” Harmon said. “They’ll know what they are in for, they’ll know the state will pay its bills, and they’ll know that the state will be here to provide the services that everyone relies upon us to provide.”

Harmon elaborated on a series of reforms the Senate passed last week in conjunction with a balanced budget at the behest of Gov. Rauner and others to make the state more business friendly. The reforms include workers’ compensation reform, procurement reform, local government consolidation reform and school funding reform. Senate Democrats also have indicated a willingness to enact a two-year property tax freeze.

“Nobody likes property taxes. We’re proposing a freeze in property taxes. We’d like to hit the pause button so that we can implement state financial reforms and protect local property taxpayers from increase at the local level,” Harmon said.

He noted that the Senate most recently enacted major reform of the state’s workers’ compensation system in 2011.

“Those reforms are paying dividends, but we aren’t seeing those benefits being passed down from the insurance companies to the local businesses that buy their insurance,” he said. “The reforms we’re advancing this session will attempt to deal with that, will attempt to ensure that the premiums, the rates people pay for their workers’ compensation reflect the strides we’ve made in reforming the system.”


Category: News

Budget General350Dear friends,

After almost 700 days without a budget, Senate Democrats did what Gov. Bruce Rauner and the GOP would not. We passed a balanced budget.

Senate Democrats accepted the responsibility of putting together a combination of cuts, reforms and revenue that balance Gov. Rauner's proposed $37.3 billion budget and bring stability to a state in crisis.

Our budget restores certainty for students from preschool through college by re-establishing stable funding for universities and community colleges that have suffered without any state support since January and haven't had a full budget in more than two years. It ensures public schools can open in the fall and fully funds MAP grants for college students.

Some of the people most deeply affected by the budget crisis are those who need the state's help the most. Our budget fully funds vital human services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, addiction treatment, early childhood intervention, domestic violence shelters, mental health programs, child care services and the Community Care Program that helps independent seniors stay in their homes.

Additionally, our budget reinstates important human service grant programs, including autism support, youth employment, Teen Reach, community youth services, immigrant services and addiction prevention services.

Lawmakers have a responsibility to put an end to the chaos that has gripped the state during the budget stalemate and begin restoring Illinois' reputation as a place worthy of putting down roots. Without a responsible state budget, Illinois can not have a strong economy, vibrant communities, well educated children, healthy families and long-term growth.

You'll have an opportunity to learn more about the state budget, ask questions and find out about some of my legislative initiatives during a series of upcoming town hall meetings. Read on in this newsletter for more details.
As always, I encourage you to stay in touch. Should you have any questions, please contact my office at 708-848-2002.

Senator Don Harmon
39th District – Illinois

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Category: E-Newsletters

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Email Senator Harmon

Springfield Office:
329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(p) 217.782.8176
(f) 217.558.6013

Oak Park Office:
6941-B W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(p) 708.848.2002
(f) 708.848.2022

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