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Possible new law may elminate felony question

URBANA -- A new law may help convicted felons applying for a job.
URBANA -- A new law may help convicted felons applying for a job. Most applications ask whether or not you've ever committed a felony. Politicians across the U.S are pushing to eliminate that question. In Illinois, the bill is in the Senate. WCIA-3's Gary Brode has more.

"Are you a convicted felon?" Winston said.

Throughout his life, it's a question James Winston has lied about on nearly every application. Lawmakers and organizations believe ex-cons like Winston shouldn't have to answer that question, at least not right away.

"After I lied on that box, I just couldn't rest easy about the job," explained Winston. "I was always kind of afraid 'Are they going to call me?'"

Winston has been in and out of jail most of his life. He was released in 2007. That's when he decided to make a change.

"It wasn't the box that was on that paper that was causing problems," said Winston. "It was the box that was in my own mind and that box was being checked by my own guilty conscious."

Winston owns Service Barber Shop. So now the only applications he has to look over, are potential employees. He believes employers should be able to ask.

"That's their prerogative. That person has done the work necessary to start a business and they're in business," said Winston. "If he wants to know who's coming in, I don't have a problem with that."

Winston would rather know a person's past early on in the process. For Winston, persistence and faith is what helped him turn his life around.

"That box is a life changer," said Winston. "I look at the box and I look at the spirit of the box and in that box is a person saying give me a chance."

Construction, emergency medical services, and security-related businesses would be excluded. Last year, Governor Quinn made an executive order to change this for state employees.

State agency applications no longer have the box asking whether an applicant has pled guilty or been convicted of a criminal offense, other than a minor traffic violation.

Agencies are still be allowed to conduct background checks and request information on criminal convictions. However that's not until later in the process.
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