Senate Republicans join Democrats and Gov. Rauner to institute criminal justice reform

Senate Republicans joined Gov. Rauner and Democrat lawmakers at a joint press conference on March 2 to highlight bipartisan legislation to help reform Illinois’ criminal justice system.

Three bills were introduced to address judicial sentencing, electronic monitoring, and to better prepare offenders upon release from leaving prison. The reform package includes a measure (SB 3164) requiring review of a pre-sentencing report, as well as an explanation prior to sentencing as to why incarceration is appropriate for an offender with no prior probation sentences or prison convictions.

Last year, nearly 60 percent of new prison admissions for Class 3 or 4 felonies had no prior convictions for violent crimes. Supporters of the proposal explained that probation could be a better option for offenders with no prior probation or convictions, noting that incarceration of those unlikely to repeat offend inefficiently uses prison resources and potentially makes offenders more susceptible to reoffending.

Another measure, SB 3294, expands the use of electronic monitoring to help transition offenders back into society. This will increase public safety and reduce costs by more effectively focusing IDOC’s supervision and programming resources on reducing recidivism.

In an attempt to help offenders transition into society more easily, SB 3368 requires the Secretary of State and the Illinois Department of Corrections to work together to provide state identification for offenders leaving IDOC. Proponents explain that without identification, offenders attempting to reenter society find it difficult, if not impossible, to secure employment, housing or pursue educational opportunities.

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Illinois prisons have reached a capacity level of 147 percent, nearly 50,000 people, and it costs nearly $40,000 to incarcerate just one individual per year. Gov. Rauner has stated many times that he would like to see the prison population in Illinois drastically reduced.

The link to the latest available report on Illinois prisons can be found here.

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