Criminal Justice Reform Law Allows Parolees to Worship Together

Published: Sep 16, 2016, by admin in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

State legislation signed into law this month will loosen restrictions on what parolees can do after their release. Previously, people released from prison on parole were not allowed to attend events where other ex-offenders might be present. Unfortunately, this meant that many ex-offenders were unable to attend worship gatherings, community service events, and volunteer programs because of the likelihood of running into another ex-offender.

This restriction aimed to reduce recidivism by preventing ex-offenders from being exposed to their former criminal associates or gangs. But in practice, the restrictions isolated parolees at a time when they needed to connect with their community. The new law aims to balance the need to protect parolees from their former criminal lives while giving them meaningful opportunities to engage with their community and peers.

When Can Ex-offenders on Parole Meet with One Another?

Penned by State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th), this criminal justice reform will allow ex-offenders to congregate under certain circumstances without facing the risk of a parole violation. According to Collins: “Freedom of association in positive settings can facilitate a smooth reentry into society and help those on parole obtain the help and resources they need to succeed outside the prison walls.”

According to Illinois law (730 ILCS 5/3-3-7), every person released on parole must refrain from knowingly associating with other people on parole, individuals on supervised release, or gang members, except:

  • When the parole agent has given his or her written permission
  • For a community event
  • For a worship service
  • A mentoring or volunteer program

Making these exceptions is important, according to Senator Collins, because: “Participation — alongside others with similar life stories — in a religious congregation, community service organization or mentoring program can serve as a powerful catalyst for purpose and change, and as we continue to struggle as a society with cycles of recidivism and violent crime, we must embrace creative solutions.”

What Happens If I Violate My Parole Conditions?

When you’re released on parole, your freedom depends on whether you obey your parole conditions. These conditions may include the obligation to maintain a job, to continue with school, to notify the parole agent of any change of address, to submit to drug tests, to refrain from owning firearms, and of course not to associate with criminals. A violation of these conditions may result in both administrative and criminal sanctions.

Fortunately, the parole board cannot simply send you back to prison. They must first give you a hearing, where you may benefit from the assistance of a Chicago criminal defense attorney. During the hearing, the parole board must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you actually violated your parole conditions—only then may you face penalties. A skilled legal advocate by your side can ensure that you maintain your dignity and freedom in the face of parole violation accusations.

O’Meara Law Is Here To Help

At O’Meara Law, we are dedicated to the cause of social justice. For us, this means advocating for and protecting the rights of the accused as they face the Illinois criminal justice system. If you have questions about your parole conditions, or if you are facing a parole violation hearing, call us today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.