- Associated Press - Sunday, April 7, 2019

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - A bill that would ban colleges from asking applicants about their criminal history would hurt campus safety efforts, according to police chiefs at several Illinois universities.

The Democratic lawmaker who sponsored the Criminal History in College Applications Act said there’s no proof that including such a question on college applications improves public safety and that it deters some people from applying.

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” said state Rep. Mary Flowers, of Chicago.

Aaron Woodruff, the police chief at Illinois State University, is among those who oppose the measure.

“Why on one hand would you say we have to improve universities’ responses to sexual assaults and, on the other hand, take away the ability to ask about criminal histories?” Woodruff asked.

Chris Ballard, director of public safety and chief of police at Millikin University in Decatur, also disagreed with the proposal.

“This prohibition would create a significant barrier to ensuring a safe environment for all students, faculty and staff on higher education campuses.”

The bill advanced out of the Higher Education Committee earlier this month, The Pantagraph reported. A vote in the full House has not been arranged. The House approved a similar measure in 2017 but it didn’t get final approval.

Kent Martin, police chief at Eastern Illinois University, said if a student indicates they have a felony conviction, the university seeks further information, such as when the conviction occurred. Martin said decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Those who have served their sentences have already paid their debt to society and are trying to provide for their families by receiving an education, Flowers said.

Inclusion of the question is “rather racist” because it disproportionately affects African Americans, Flowers said. She called it “a carry on of the Jim Crow laws.”

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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