WBEZ | ex-felons http://www.wbez.org/tags/ex-felons Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Ex-felon informs formerly incarcerated of right to vote http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-felon-informs-formerly-incarcerated-right-vote-110994 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ex-Felon2.png" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="FORCE members and ex-offenders Marlon Chamberlain and Teleza Rodgers meet at a McDonald’s on the city’s west side. They work to notify ex-felons of the right to vote. (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />In a back corner at a Chicago McDonald&rsquo;s, Marlon Chamberlain sits and goes through papers under a movie poster. It&rsquo;s from the film &ldquo;The Hurricane&rdquo; the true story of Rubin &ldquo;Hurricane&rdquo; Carter, the famed boxer turned prisoner right&rsquo;s activist.</p><p>There, Chamberlain meets those recently incarcerated who want a new start. Chamberlain is with FORCE, or Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality. Chamberlin&rsquo;s job is to talk to ex-prisoners about everything from how to get a job to how to become a community leader. Part of his work includes talking about his past. Specifically the events leading up to September 2002.</p><p>&ldquo;I have a federal offense. I was arrested with conspiracy with intent to distribute and sentenced to 240 months,&rdquo; says Chamberlain. &ldquo;With the Fair Sentencing Act, I ended up serving 10 and a half years.&rdquo;</p><p>He was in federal prison when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. Chamberlain remembered watching the event and cheering along while the other inmates. But even then, the political process that moved Obama to the presidency was something Chamberlain didn&rsquo;t care much about.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t believe voting mattered. I didn&rsquo;t see how things could be different or how the mayor or certain state representative could change things in my community. That connection wasn&rsquo;t there.&rdquo;</p><p>After his release, a FORCE member talked to Chamberlain at a halfway house. That&rsquo;s when he started to understand that local lawmakers and not the president decide whether money gets allocated to ex-offender programs and how sentencing guidelines are outlined.</p><p>Chamberlain also learned that ex-felons could vote. In several states, if you&rsquo;re convicted of a felony, you lose the right to vote. Permanently. But in Illinois, an ex-offender can vote upon release. Chamberlain didn&rsquo;t know that. He says lots of people with records don&rsquo;t know that either. Which is why now he&rsquo;s working overtime to get the word out before election day.</p><p>Tucked away between a dead end road and railroad tracks on the city&rsquo;s southwest side, Chamberlain meets with a group of men from the Chicagoland Prison Outreach. They&rsquo;re in a work study program and Chamberlain visits with them on Thursdays. It&rsquo;s part classroom, part bible study and part welding work study. Chamberlain starts the discussion by asking &lsquo;When was the last time anyone voted?&rsquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ex-Felon1.png" title="Marlon Chamberlain talks to a group from the Chicagoland Prison Outreach about the importance of voting (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" /></p><p>One person pipes up and says he voted while in jail. He too was told he couldn&rsquo;t vote, but while in the Cook County Jail, inmates awaiting trial can vote. They&rsquo;re given applications for absentee ballots. This year, the Board of Elections processed tens of thousands of new applications. Many inmate applications are rejected, mainly because addresses can&rsquo;t be verified. Out of the more than 9,500 inmates requesting ballots, around 1,300 were deemed eligible.</p><p>A person who goes by the name of Kris says even though he can vote, he&rsquo;s not interested.</p><p>&ldquo;I never cared who was in office,&rdquo; says Kris, &ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t even know who to vote for.&rdquo;</p><p>The class tells him he needs to do some homework to know the candidates&rsquo; platforms. Chamberlain echoes the notion of doing a little homework and cautions the class about political stereotypes. Like that all African Americans vote the Democratic ticket.</p><p>&ldquo;Because you got Democrats who won&rsquo;t do nothing. I don&rsquo;t believe in befriending politicians. You know, no permanent friends, no permanent enemies,&rdquo; says Chamberlain. He points to the very room they sit in as a result of some kind<br />of political action.</p><p>&ldquo;So what would happen if people don&rsquo;t vote for the elected official who signed off on this? Then this program goes away,&rdquo; Chamberlain notes. Kris does not care.</p><p>&ldquo;All I see is a lot of squad cars coming around. Our neighborhood, how it was in the past, it was better than how it is now,&rdquo; says Kris. &ldquo; At least we had stuff we could do. We didn&rsquo;t have to stand on the block to have fun. We actually had places.&rdquo; Chamberlain asks Kris if he&rsquo;s ever spoken to his alderman about the problems he sees. Kris shrugs, admitting he&rsquo;s never bothered to make contact. &ldquo;The city is so fou-fou right now. The city ain&rsquo;t right.&rdquo;</p><p>While most people heard a person complaining about problems, Chamberlain heard someone much like himself. A person aware of problems, who knows things could be better. Back at the McDonalds, Chamberlain meets up with FORCE worker Teleza Rodgers. She too, is an ex-felon and covers the city&rsquo;s North Lawndale neighborhood. They talk about how hard it is to get ex-felons motivated to vote. Especially since many of them live the misconception that their voting rights were taken away from them when they went to prison.</p><p>&ldquo;People who don&rsquo;t know us are making decisions about our lives or livelihoods and our neighborhoods. They don&rsquo;t live where we live at,&rdquo; says Rodgers. &ldquo;They (ex-felons)<br />tend to have an ear to that. I say we can&rsquo;t expect to have anyone do anything for us if we&rsquo;re not doing it.&rdquo;</p><p>Rodgers says there&rsquo;s no way around the impact of voter representation. And that several questions on November&rsquo;s ballot can directly impact ex-felons and others in Chicago. Like whether the state should increase funding for mental-health services, whether a school-funding formula for disadvantaged children should be reset, and whether to increase the minimum wage.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 10:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-felon-informs-formerly-incarcerated-right-vote-110994 Advocates say giving ex-felons jobs could curb violence http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-say-giving-ex-felons-jobs-could-curb-violence-108292 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ex-felons_130805_AYC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Advocates said new legislation that helps ex-felons find jobs could also curb violence.</p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Saturday signed laws that could result in lesser sentences for nonviolent offenders, streamline the expungement process and, in some cases, could clear a defendant&rsquo;s record.</p><p>Anthony Lowery is the director for policy and advocacy at Safer Foundation, a local prisoner reentry program. He said ex-offenders often come home to high crime areas.</p><p>&ldquo;They have the majority of people who have arrest and conviction records and who can&rsquo;t get employment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, young people don&rsquo;t see people coming out of the house going to work. They see people coming out of those houses standing on the corners.&rdquo;</p><p>Without job opportunities, &ldquo;they&rsquo;re in a hopeless situation,&rdquo; Lowery said.</p><p>Another law increased the tax credit incentive given to employers who hire ex-offenders.</p><p>Employers could earn up to $1,500 in income tax credit for each ex-felon they hire within three years after being released from prison. They can benefit from the credit for up to five years.</p><p><em>Aimee Chen is a WBEZ business reporting intern. Follow her at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/AimeeYuyiChen">@AimeeYuyiChen</a></em></p></p> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-say-giving-ex-felons-jobs-could-curb-violence-108292 Restoring nature - and lives - on Chicago's Southeast Side http://www.wbez.org/story/restoring-nature-and-lives-chicagos-southeast-side-87981 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-17/videos 032.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago’s developed a reputation as a green city.&nbsp; And a lot of attention’s gone in making the emerald span of lakeside parks shine. But the city’s also working to improve less well-known areas, including Hegewisch Marsh on the far Southeast Side.&nbsp;The marsh is an ecologically valuable wetland, but it was also a dumping ground for big-industry. One twist is that the people improving this long-neglected place are people society sometimes forgets.</p><p>Paul Hickenbottom spent last weekend at Hegewisch Marsh, a 130-acre wetland at 130th Street and Torrence Avenue - near the Ford Motor Plant. His job? Pulling out weeds and invasive, harmful plants.<br> &nbsp;<br> HICKENBOTTOM: I’m a restoration tech. We do restoration work. We do restoration work. We remove invasive species, cut down trees, plant I.D.<br> <br> Hickenbottom’s part of a year-old project called Green Corp Calumet. It’s put on through Chicago’s Department of Environment, and the purpose is to provide forestry training, especially to people who have a hard time landing steady work. That includes people who with criminal records, people like Hickenbottom.<br> <br> HICKENBOTTOM: I had 20 straight years. First Degree murder.<br> PUENTE: How old were you when you were convicted of murder?<br> HICKENBOTTOM: I was 25. Young and stupid. That’s an episode of my life that I assume forgot.<br> <br> But it’s hard to forget because that conviction hampers Hickenbottom’s ability to hold onto to a job. Hickenbottom got out of prison five years ago. He took a stab janitorial work, and then delivering food. But neither stuck.<br> <br> Now, he’s 48 years old and says maybe he’s just now finding his calling - doing work for Green Corp Calumet.<br> <br> HICKENBOTTOM: I never thought this would be for me but it grows on you. I would love to stay in the green field. I want to go into the nursery to bring a plant up from birth and watch it flourish.<br> <br> Zach Taylor is a guy who likes to hear these kinds of comments. Taylor heads of Green Corp Calumet, which happens to be funded by the U.S. Forestry Service. Trainees receive 18 months of on the job experience. Taylor says participants are paid, but there’s an even more important benefit: they might have a chance to do restoration work, for good.<br> <br> TAYLOR: There’s probably four or five contractors in the Chicagoland region that do strictly ecological restoration work. There are also a lot of wetland mitigation projects. Anytime you fill in a wetland, it needs to be restored and replaced in some way. These type of companies come in and do that.<br> <br> ELMORE: I rode past here on a daily basis. I didn’t have a clue what was over here. I’ve lived in this area for 30 years and never, ever knew what this was.<br> <br> That’s Brenda Elmore, who’s also helping to restore Hegewisch Marsh. She spent five years in prison for selling drugs. Elmore’s been out two years now. She tried a career in cosmetology but fell out of it.<br> <br> Elmore says she’s not disappointed, though. She says working in the Hegewisch Marsh has a calming effect on her -- even on bad days.<br> <br> ELMORE: You can be upset when you come to work but just coming out to places like this into the marsh, it’s calming to see deer. You don’t see deer in the urban area. We’ve seen all kinds of things out here. You know like snakes. I’m not very found of snakes but I’m getting a little better.<br> <br> Elmore says she wishes she had been exposed to nature earlier in life.<br> <br> ELMORE: I couldn’t image ever being a part of that I’m a part of now. And it has totally changed my life.<br> <br> Now that she’s found this experience in nature, Elmore hopes she’ll never let it go. Elmore and the other Green Corp Calumet trainees will wrap up their work by the end of this summer.</p></p> Fri, 17 Jun 2011 05:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/restoring-nature-and-lives-chicagos-southeast-side-87981