041024CM0223SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Celina Villanueva passed a measure through the Senate to ensure those who plead guilty to a possession charge receive a second chance in exchange for diversion into a probation program.

“Supportive measures like this allow first-time offenders of possession to reintegrate into society with the tools they need to succeed,” said Villanueva (D-Chicago). “Harsh penalties only serve to solidify a cycle of recidivism.”

Currently, a person who successfully completes a probation program will have their sentence or conviction vacated. This clean record applies while the person is enrolled in the program as well as for those who successfully complete the program.

House Bill 5285 would protect individuals who plead guilty to a possession charge in exchange for diversion into a probation program with the promise that a felony will not be included on their record upon successful completion of the program. This measure is necessary because background checks often misinterpret diversion into special probation programs as a “conviction.”

“First-time offenders deserve a second chance rather than severe penalties,” said Villanueva. “This measure encourages compassion and restores hope for a society that believes in second chances and recognizes that people can learn from their mistakes and contribute positively to their communities.”

House Bill 5285 passed Senate Thursday and heads to the governor for further consideration.