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Legislators want former gang members barred from some state employment

Monday, Jan 13, 2014

* Sun-Times

Two Republican state lawmakers are drafting legislation to ban former gang members from working for the Illinois prison system and three other state agencies in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation.

Under the proposal by Reps. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, and John Anthony, R-Morris, a person who is “documented to have been a member of a criminal gang” would be prohibited from employment by the state Department of Corrections, State Police, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Children and Family Services.

The legislation comes after the Sun-Times disclosed that Xadrian R. McCraven, a former gang member, was hired to a six-figure job within the state prison system last year despite being found unfit to work for IDOC in 2007 and 2011 because of problems identified in background checks.

McCraven had been working for DCFS until 2012 but was fired from the child-welfare system for allegedly sending lewd emails and falsifying a job application. He was transferred to a $111,432-a-year job as senior adviser to the IDOC chief of parole after settling a lawsuit and a union grievance he’d filed over his DCFS firing.

Federal court records show McCraven’s criminal history includes two dozen arrests that had been expunged and three misdemeanor convictions. He admitted being a gang member for two years in the late 1980s in a corrections job application he filled out in 2011.

* Illinois Observer

Under their proposal, a person who is documented to have been a member of a criminal gang would be prohibited from employment by the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

For the prohibition to apply, there would have to be documentary evidence that he or she was a member of a criminal street gang, including a gang related conviction of gang-related offense or finding of fact by a court and would apply to all hiring by agencies including unionized and political hires.

* Tribune

Similarly, Rep. Ives is looking to address the situation in a broader sense with a proposal prohibiting a person with two or more criminal convictions from holding employment with the State of Illinois.

“I think the taxpayers of Illinois are fed up with these types of stories,” stated Ives. “To have a politically connected employee bounce between agencies collecting a high level salary with this type of record, all the while apparently falsifying qualifications is just not acceptable. And to have been repeatedly ‘placed’ into positions just leaves you asking more questions.”

Under her proposal, a person who has been convicted two or more times of criminal offenses including a felony, class A Misdemeanor or a DUI would be ineligible to be employed in any position by the State of Illinois. While it would exempt certain traffic violations and smaller class misdemeanors, the prohibition would apply prospectively to all state hiring including unionized, political, legislative and judicial employees.

* And the Sun-Times, which recently editorialized against allowing anyone to run for any political office who has a felony record, doesn’t like either of these proposals

Yes, McCraven’s hiring record raises troubling questions. We’ve made it clear in earlier editorials that we don’t think a guy like him belongs in a job like that. But two solutions offered Friday from three Illinois legislators are the wrong answer.

State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, and state Rep. John Anthony, R-Morris want to ban anyone who ever has been a member of a gang from working for the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the Illinois State Police or the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, wants to prohibit anyone with two or more criminal convictions, exempting traffic tickets and some other minor violations, from holding any state job — ever.

Sorry, that just won’t work. Too many young people grow up in neighborhoods where it’s as easy — or perhaps easier — to pick up a gang affiliation or criminal conviction as it is for a North Shore teenager to be caught shoplifting. Denying these young people a chance at a good state job might close off the best opportunity they have for a solid career. As John Hagedorn, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has pointed out, many young people leave gangs and go on to lead productive lives. Rather than ban young people, we’d be better off trying to help them get a stable foothold in society.

We know the primary election is coming up in March, meaning this isn’t exactly the best time of year for thoughtful legislative ideas.

But these two proposals should be quietly taken out in the back and dropped into the dumpster.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


29 Comments
  1. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    Exactly how long do we punish someone for being a former gang member?


  2. - shore - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    I’d much rather see a serious effort at reducing the size and potency of gangs as well as an effort at drying up the base of disaffected young men they draw from-and no not by having the FBI round up all 18.000 of them.

    Reboletti at least on chicago tonight seems like a serious, well informed man. this is worthwhile, but there are bigger fish to go after in that pond.


  3. - friend of a friend - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    How can a guy who worked off and on in State government since 1993 hide his expunged record? Sun-Times says he disclosed this information and his 1980’s gang affiliation to IDOC and they STILL took him. He was a college grad, police officer, social worker, Chief of Staff at a major State agency. Do you really believe that people didn’t know? Seriously?


  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:15 pm:

    No chance at rehabilitation? See you in church, reps.


  5. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    I don’t agree with Rep. Ives’ legislation to ban an individual from state employment. I’m not for punishing people for the rest of their lives for something they have already paid the price for.


  6. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:28 pm:

    If his records were expunged then he doesn’t have to claim those convictions. Let me be clear, I’m not defending the guy. But expungement clears the deck.


  7. - friend of a friend - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:36 pm:

    The real question here is…what does this say to people who change their lives and expunge their records? No forgiveness, ever? Or as long as you don’t aim high? Lol


  8. - wndycty - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    We can’t develop a two tier system, either we allow ex offenders an opportunity at a 2nd chance or we don’t. I am very uneasy isolating former “gang members.”


  9. - Cassandra - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:49 pm:

    I’m wondering how “gang membership” would be defined and verified. As a matter of fact, how do you define “gang.” Sounds kind of scary in our evolving national security state. Maybe NSA could help.

    This is a ridiculous proposal and I presume it will die soon. It also distracts attention from some more interesting bits of this scandal du jour such as, why on earth didn’t the Quinn admin let his firing proceed instead of sending him over to DOC. Really. The saves taxpayer money excuse just isn’t credible. Why fire anybody.


  10. - Ghost - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    The ga strong armed for hiring changes to not consider criminal pasts until the very end of the hiring process since it may not be a disqualifier. This is a contrary message. Do we consider certain things to always ban employment or not? I there are forever nonos the. We need to screen up front


  11. - countyline - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 1:57 pm:

    -I’m not for punishing people for the rest of their lives for something they have already paid the price for.-

    So where would you stand on allowing felons to get a FOID card, or what about the sex offender registry, aren’t both of those eternal punishment for past sins ? Personally I agree that once you’ve done your time, you should get all of your rights back, however…..

    -McCraven’s criminal history includes two dozen arrests that had been expunged and three misdemeanor convictions-

    Seriously ? Most of us can manage to get through life with nothing more than a speeding ticket, why should someone be rewarded with a well-paying state job with a record that colorful ? At best his record shows a history of bad judgement, something we already have enough of in all levels of government.


  12. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:01 pm:

    Countyline, you understand the differences between felonies and misdemeanors, correct?


  13. - countyline - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:11 pm:

    Obviously.

    You do understand why we shouldn’t reward bad behavior, correct, especially repeated bad behavior. Those who feed from the public trough should be held to a higher standard.


  14. - Gman - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:16 pm:

    I wonder how many legislators would lose their jobs for having convictions?


  15. - Irish - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:25 pm:

    So these folks would ban an ex-con, ex gang member, from state employment; but they do allow them to become a legislator.

    Seems about right for Illinois. Wouldn’t want to eliminate the criminal element from our GA. Who would we elect?


  16. - friend of a friend - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:26 pm:

    the guy was a teenager (20 plus years ago)when the arrests happened, NOT a State employee. Fixed himself up. Can you match his accomplishments since? If so, you win, if not he wins. If he made it all the way from that past to now, maybe we should sign him up to show other people how to do the same. Sounds like CORRECTIONS was a good fit! LOL


  17. - John Galt - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    I think generally the bills have merit, especially the gang thing involving sensitive departments like corrections, etc.

    But I see some significant issues:

    1) In many singular incidents, a person can get nailed for 2-3 misdemeanors. So in a single DUI or other similar incident, the person would be automatically disqualified from everything? Seems harsh.

    2) At the bare minimum, there should be some kind of redemption opportunity there. Like only looking back 7/10/15 years (you name the length of time). At some point, if somebody can put together a certain number of years of no criminal record, they should be able to work for the DMV, IDOT, or even more professional levels of government like the legislative or executive branch. People can & do sober up, straighten out, mature, etc. And for the person who is framing this as being “rewarded”–it isn’t a “reward” for being bad. It’s simply restoring somebody back to the default normal status every other citizen has, ONCE that person proves that they are now behaving like a normal law-abiding citizen again.

    3) To what extent does the Ives bill even apply to political types? How many legislators, staffers, or judges have a DUI on their record from 10 or 20 or 30 years ago? And if they get one more now, they’re automatically disqualified from serving in state government? In ANY capacity?


  18. - LisleMike - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:39 pm:

    I think the bigger issue is the not being fit to hold a job at IDOT based on background checks. It isn’t whether he was a gang member or not. He failed a background check TWICE and still got the job. sreams fix, wink/nod, whatever. If a person has paid debt to society and can show good cause to be trusted in a job, let them have at it in a fair competition for the job. No guarnatees of employment but a fair shot at it.


  19. - Joan P. - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:46 pm:

    “a person who is “documented to have been a member of a criminal gang” would be prohibited from employment”

    How do they define “documented”? One of those stupid hearsay “gang contact” cards the cops fill out every time they talk to a young black male on the south or west side of Chicago?

    And what does it mean to be a “member”?

    It would be bad enough if this legislation barred someone with a minor conviction from employment. But it doesn’t even require that.

    Ridiculous.


  20. - John Galt - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 2:53 pm:

    LisleMike–

    I totally agree. A lot of this should be a case by case issue. For example, a person with a DUI in their record shouldn’t be hired to drive trucks for IDOT. But I don’t see how the DUI–especially if it’s been years ago–impacts one’s ability to serve as an administrative assistant in the Thompson Center or as a lunch lady at the UIC cafeteria. Similarly, I don’t see how a shoplifting charge at age 19 disqualifies somebody from being a truck driver for IDOT at age 45.

    I like the general thrust of the legislation–especially the gang issue since they do have a history of infiltrating the prison system to advance their gang related activities. But the rest of it seems overly harsh.


  21. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    So, there would have to be evidence of being in a “a criminal street gang.” How exactly is “a criminal street gang” defined? Is the Mafia included?

    ==why should someone be rewarded with a well-paying state job with a record that colorful==

    Lol, I guess you’ve never heard of police harassment or even read literature on how policing in non-white neighborhoods takes place, especially with regards to arrests versus convictions and targeting of those believed to be “problems” by “beat” cops.


  22. - Anon - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    Giving people a second chance is a great concept, but a careful approach is still essential. I believe Illinois is a state where an employer can be held liable for negligent hiring.


  23. - Big Muddy - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 4:38 pm:

    Ives bill will go nowhere… because it’s Ives bill.


  24. - HM - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 6:00 pm:

    Careful Big BMuddy….you dared to write something negative about Rep. Ives. Expect a phone call from the police and DA any second….


  25. - Leave a Light on George - Monday, Jan 13, 14 @ 8:40 pm:

    =I’m not for punishing people for the rest of their lives for something they have already paid the price for.=

    Guess we should give George back his pension. Rod too when he gets out.


  26. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jan 14, 14 @ 9:30 am:

    ==So where would you stand on allowing felons to get a FOID card, or what about the sex offender registry==

    ==Guess we should give George back his pension. Rod too when he gets out.==

    I don’t even know how to respond to those nonsense statements.


  27. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jan 14, 14 @ 9:31 am:

    @countyline:

    Let us know your secret to being perfect so we can all mimic it.


  28. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 14, 14 @ 5:13 pm:

    “Exactly how long do we punish someone for being a former gang member?”

    In certain Departments…forever.


  29. - bigcat - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 9:32 am:

    you have got to know the real story behind this guy he is still a member of the Saints of humble park. Just because its a political group its still the Latin Kings and they make big donations to elected officals for just this purpose


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