Governor signs Peters’ bill to teach civics to prisoners

State Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th), speaks from the lectern at the signing of the Re-Entering Citizens Civic Education Act on Aug. 21 at St. Leonard’s Ministries, 2100 W. Warren Blvd. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and Gov. J.B. Pritzker look on behind him (left and right, respectively). (Contributed photo)


State-incarcerated Illinoisans will have access to peer-led civic education programs starting 12 months before their scheduled release, thanks to House Bill 2541, signed into law on Aug. 21 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and chief-sponsored by Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th).

In a statement, Peters called the bill, which was introduced to the General Assembly by South Side Rep. Sonya Harper (D-6th), “the first step toward building and expanding on the civic rights of folks in prisons and jails,” whom he lauded for their central role in fighting against “the systemic cycle of mass incarceration.”

In remarks at the bill’s signing, Peters recounted touring Stateville Prison with Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D) earlier this summer and meeting “so many beautiful souls who are trapped behind bars.”

“I want to say to each and every one of you, we will fight with you, alongside you, for your dignity and rights,” he said. “To those who are back home today, we will fight alongside you and your loved ones to lift up our communities and lift up our state so everyone in Illinois has the justice, equity, and opportunity they deserve.”

The civics programs’ nonpartisan curricula will cover voting rights, governmental institutions and current affairs as well as simulations of voter registration, elections and other democratic processes.

The Re-Entering Citizens Civic Education Act takes effect on Jan. 1.