Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers from both side of the aisle on Wednesday hailed a criminal justice reform package as an important first step to fixing the state’s broken system.
The package includes three bipartisan bills that address several of the 14 recommendations proposed by the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which Rauner established last year with the goal of reducing the state’s prison population by 25 percent over the next decade.
“Today we are taking action to reform the criminal justice system in Illinois,” Rauner said. “This package of bills takes the first steps to break the cycle of recidivism, by aiming to reduce both prison admissions and the length of someone’s prison stay. I thank the legislative sponsors for their work on these important pieces of legislation.”
From the governor’s office:
- SB 3164 – requires review of a pre-sentencing report, as well as an explanation of why incarceration is appropriate for offenders with no prior probation sentences or prison convictions prior to sentencing. Last year, nearly 60 percent of new prison admissions for Class 3 or 4 felonies had no prior convictions for violent crimes. Sending low-level offenders with no prior probation or other convictions inefficiently uses prison resources and potentially makes low-level offenders more susceptible to reoffending. This legislation is sponsored by state Sen. Michael Connelly,R-Lisle, and state Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport.
- SB 3294 – expands the use of electronic monitoring to help transition offenders back into society. This will increase public safety by more effectively focusing IDOC’s supervision and programming resources to reduce recidivism. This legislation is sponsored by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago.
- SB 3368 – requires the Secretary of State and the Illinois Department of Corrections work together to provide state identification so offenders can transition into society more easily. This legislation is sponsored by state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, and state Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park.
During a press conference, both Democratic and Republican sponsors of the bills applauded Rauner for his leadership in initiating criminal justice reform efforts, but made clear it’s just the beginning.
“This is one of those areas where we agree something has got to be done. Something has to be done for the benefit of our state, something has to be done for our communities, and that’s what we’re working towards,” Sims said. “I’m thankful that Gov. Rauner took the leadership to get us started and this is just the first step. This is not the end of the process, it’s the beginning.”
Cabello said the legislation shows what can be done when lawmakers work together. “We do excellent, great things when we work together; we do horrible things when we work apart.”
“Hopefully this will bleed out into some other things we do,” said Raoul.
Rauner said that of the commission’s 14 recommendations, five could be implemented through executive action while the rest would have to be passed by the General Assembly.
“This is not the end of anything. This is the very beginning of a process that will go on for years to improve our criminal justice system.”
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