Wrong solutions for problem of bad state hiring

Editorials

January 12, 2014 4:46PM

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Updated: February 14, 2014 6:14AM

From time to time, an unsuitable person with a significant criminal record pops up in a well-paying state job.

The most recent example is Xadrian McCraven, a former Chicago gang member with at least 24 arrests, including for arson, illegal gun possession, attempted robbery, drug possession and aggravated assault. As reported by Frank Main and Chris Fusco in the Sun-Times, McCraven held several state jobs, most recently a $110,000-a-year one as an administrator at the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Yes, McCraven’s hiring record raises troubling questions. We’ve made it clear in earlier editorials that we don’t think a guy like him belongs in a job like that. But two solutions offered Friday from three Illinois legislators are the wrong answer.

State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, and state Rep. John Anthony, R-Morris want to ban anyone who ever has been a member of a gang from working for the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the Illinois State Police or the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, wants to prohibit anyone with two or more criminal convictions, exempting traffic tickets and some other minor violations, from holding any state job — ever.

Sorry, that just won’t work. Too many young people grow up in neighborhoods where it’s as easy — or perhaps easier — to pick up a gang affiliation or criminal conviction as it is for a North Shore teenager to be caught shoplifting. Denying these young people a chance at a good state job might close off the best opportunity they have for a solid career. As John Hagedorn, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has pointed out, many young people leave gangs and go on to lead productive lives. Rather than ban young people, we’d be better off trying to help them get a stable foothold in society.

We know the primary election is coming up in March, meaning this isn’t exactly the best time of year for thoughtful legislative ideas.

But these two proposals should be quietly taken out in the back and dropped into the dumpster.

The only sensible way to keep future Xadrian McCravens from popping up on state payrolls is for state officials to do a better job of vetting candidates for sensitive state positions.

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