Civics in Prison

“Being a person who was affected by the [criminal] justice system, you’re told you’re never going to be able to vote again,” said Javier Reyes, a formerly incarcerated organizer with Chicago Votes. “So when these bills get passed, now you’re able to give people the correct information. You’re able to empower them.”

In 2019 Chicago Votes helped pass House Bill 2541, “The Re-entry Civics Education Act” which requires every person leaving prison in Illinois to receive 3, ninety-minute civic classes. Of course, we played a major role in drafting the curriculum are are working with partners to ensure this bill is fully implemented.

In 2021, The Re-entry Civics Education Act was amended to included the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. In other words, young people leaving juvenile facilities will receive civics education, too!

“The curriculum is broken down into three 90-minute workshops led by peer educators who are incarcerated residents of the facility. One of the co-facilitators of the curriculum will be a resident of the facility, trained in voting rights education by a nonpartisan civics organization, while the other will be a member of said organization. Workshops will be offered to residents 12 months before their release as part of their standard exit process.”