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Chicago Team Helps Craft New Illinois Law, the Re-Entering Citizens Civic Education Act

September 9, 2019
Latham worked with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to shape the bill after an initial draft was created by a group of Illinois prisoners.

On August 21, 2019, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the Re-Entering Citizens Civic Education Act into law. Latham & Watkins associate Emanuel Francone, with the assistance of partner and Co-Chair of Chicago’s Litigation & Trial Department Terra Reynolds, provided significant legal and policy analysis to the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in order to draft the legislation and ultimately allow the bill to become law. The law requires the Illinois Department of Corrections to provide nonpartisan peer-led civics programs to prisoners throughout the correctional institutions in Illinois, within 12 months of their release. The goal of this legislation is “to promote the successful integration of re-entering citizens, promote democracy, and reduce rates of recidivism” within Illinois. It is the first such law in the country and an important non-partisan mechanism to provide returning citizens with information about how to reclaim their voting rights and increase civic participation.

The idea for this law started with the dedicated work of a think-tank made up of Illinois prisoners. These individuals put together the draft bill, which would eventually become HB 2541. In coordination with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Latham assisted in further developing the language of the bill. This work included policy based research, legislative strategy, and drafting. After the legislation was introduced as HB 2541, Latham then assisted in the preparation of written testimony submitted in support of the bill’s passage.  The bill eventually passed both the Illinois House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Pritzker on August 21, 2019. The full text of HB 2541 can be found here.