Reentry supporter, Emanuel “Chris” Welch becomes first Black Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives

Reentry supporter, Emanuel “Chris” Welch becomes first Black Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives

GEO Reentry Services would like to congratulate Emanuel “Chris” Welch, newly elected Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and the state’s first Black Speaker. Speaker Welch, who has shared GEO Reentry Services Centers’ dedication to reducing recidivism through rehabilitative and reentry services, took over for Speaker Michael Madigan after nearly four decades in the job.

As Democratic State Representative for the seventh district since 2013, Speaker Welch has long been a supporter of services for individuals who are reentering the community following incarceration.

Over the years, he has been honored multiple times by the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Summit of Hope program, which assembles local service providers for a “one-stop” expo where parolees and probationers can obtain assistance to move past barriers preventing a successful life.

In the House, Speaker Welch served as chief sponsor of a resolution to “create clean energy jobs that are accessible to all…[and] reduce recidivism rates while curbing climate change,” and in 2019, led Black and Latino legislators in working together to create the Illinois Access to Justice program, which seeks to mitigate the devastating effects of incarceration on marginalized populations by funding community-based legal services.

He also championed transformative legislation in the House, including the Homeless Bill of Rights, and served as Chair of both the House Executive Committee and the Higher Education Committee.

Speaker Welch is a partner at Ancel Glink, a local government law firm. He is married with two children and has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a law degree from John Marshall Law School. He is also a former president of the Proviso Township High School Board of Education.

In a recent interview with ABC7 Chicago, the Speaker reflected on the impact of his election to Speaker for future generations: “You have to understand what it means for Black boys and Black girls out there right now who are told that they’re not going to achieve things in life…And now not only can they believe it, but they can see it.”

In the years ahead, GEO Reentry centers in Illinois are looking forward to continuing work with the Speaker on a mission we share: helping the previously incarcerated improve their lives, decreasing recidivism and strengthening communities.