2nd Opportunity team member Marlon Chamberlain can still remember the excitement and relief he felt on his first day home after serving 10 years in federal prison. Finally, he was done serving time and could move forward with his life. However, he soon discovered the many laws and policies in place that would remind him that he was not, or would never be, fully free.
“People with records like me are told to rebuild their lives without help, all while navigating a complicated web of laws that restrict our rights,” Chamberlain writes. “In the beginning, you don’t even realize it’s happening. You’re just getting rejections one after another – for housing, for jobs, for getting involved in your kids’ school as a mentor or chaperone.”
Nine years later, Chamberlain is on a mission to eliminate permanent punishments that create a “prison after the prison” for formerly incarcerated people in Illinois. As campaign manager for Heartland Alliance’s Fully Free Campaign, he is leading a state-wide, multi-year effort to dismantle the laws and regulations that deny or restrict rights and opportunities for people with a record – long after their involvement with the criminal legal system is over.
In recognition of Freedom Month and Juneteenth, the Fully Free Campaign officially launches on June 23 with a virtual event that brings together leading human rights advocates, artists, and formerly incarcerated people to forge a pathway to end the legal penalties that create long-lasting barriers to employment, housing, education, and civil engagement.
The campaign formed as a response to the Social IMPACT Research Center’s study that revealed that permanent punishments impact more than 3.3 million people in Illinois due to former criminal legal system involvement. There are 1,189 permanent punishment laws and regulations in Illinois, mostly denying people housing, education, and employment. People of color are most impacted.
2nd Opportunity has close ties with Fully Free; in addition to Chamberlain’s involvement, 2nd Opp co-founder Augie Ghilarducci sits on the Governing Board. Ending permanent punishments is a cause close to our hearts; as an organization dedicated to empowering individuals who have experienced a life-changing setback to break the chains of their past and build a positive new future, we believe in clean slates and second chances.
The virtual event takes place June 23 from 1-2:30 p.m. Join us in registering here to support this important cause.
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