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Fully Free Organizes Chapter in the QC

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A campaign is starting in Illinois to help people with serious criminal records regain their rights. Called "Fully Free," the goal of the statewide coalition is to help former prisoners get full access to jobs, education, and housing.

During a stop in Moline Tuesday, Fully Free Campaign Manager Marlon Chamberlain said there are more than 3 million people with felony records living in Illinois.

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announcing the new Fully Free QC chapter, (l to r) Javier Reyes (Aurora), Marlon Chamberlain (Chicago), Willette Benford (Chicago)

"We believe that a criminal record should not follow an individual for the rest of their life. That a person, after their incarceration is completed, that that individual should be able to move forward with dignity, and should be able to live with their head high."

He says the formerly incarcerated are held back by what he calls "permanent punishments that create the prison after the prison."

Fully Free Campaign Board Chair Willette Benford says Black women make up 14 per cent of Illinois' adult population, but more than one-third of those in prison.

"We can be really returning citizens, but a citizen has rights. We have a right to housing, we have a right to employment, we have a right to educational opportunities, we have a right to licensing opportunities."

Fully Free is now recruiting members across the state, and researching state laws, hoping to have some proposals ready for the General Assembly next year.

Chamberlain says one example of a law they want to change is the one that prevented him, a convicted felon, from serving as the executor of his father's will.

The new Quad Cities chapter of Fully Free, joins chapters in Peoria, Bloomington, Carbondale, Rockford, Dekalb, Champaign, and Joliet.