Marlon Chamberlain in the Chicago Tribune: “I should be able to run for local office”

May 13, 2024

Marlon Chamberlain (Leading with Conviction™ 2019) writes in the Chicago Tribune:

“As a local organizer and advocate, I spend most of my days in official municipal or state-level meetings and hearings about issues affecting our communities. Often, I become frustrated because even though I am seen as a respected community leader, I am not able to officially represent and advocate for my community. My ineligibility to run for public office is one way I continue to be punished for past mistakes.

The blanket exclusion of individuals with felony convictions from running for local office perpetuates a cycle of marginalization …

“I walked out of federal prison 12 years ago, determined to overcome challenges, rebuild my life and make a positive impact in my community. However, I have faced significant barriers that have prevented me from fully participating in our democratic process. Strong stigmas and limitations are imposed on individuals with felony convictions who seek to run for local public office. Despite how I have paid my dues, worked tirelessly to rehabilitate myself and made valuable contributions to my local community, my past continues to define my eligibility to serve my community in a meaningful way, and it is disheartening.

“And it’s not just me. There are approximately 3 million individuals living in Illinois with criminal records. That is nearly one-third of the Illinois population. The blanket exclusion of individuals with felony convictions from running for local office perpetuates a cycle of marginalization, disenfranchisement and exclusion, especially among people of color, that undermines the principles of fairness and justice.

“My experience, along with many others’, led me to establish the Illinois Coalition to End Permanent Punishments. We advocate for policies that abolish permanent punishment laws, envisioning a world in which arrest or conviction records no longer haunt individuals. We believe in supporting everyone’s journey to full freedom, shifting focus from lifelong punishment to pathways toward complete liberation.”

Read the full op-ed at

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