State Officials Propose Sweeping Program To Reform Criminal Justice System

State Officials Propose Sweeping Program To Reform Criminal Justice System

Illinois officials today (Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020) proposed a seven-point program to reform the state’s criminal justice system that includes the end of cash bail, shortening of prison sentences and restricting the use of force.

The announcement was made via a news release from Gov. JB Pritzker’s office.

State officials are proposing “seven guiding principles” that will be foundational in the administration’s plans.

The principles focus on “a holistic approach that addresses the structural flaws of a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts people of color and often traps people in a cycle of incarceration and system-involvement,” the news release said.

The seven principles are:

End the use of the cash bail system and limit pretrial detention to only those who are a threat to public safety.

State officials say the present system “disproportionately forces low-income families and people of color into a disruptive cycle of unearned detention and instability.”

The cash bail system would be replaced by a risk assessment to determine the likelihood of a defendant’s appearance at trial and if there is a threat to public safety posed by a defendant’s pre-trial release.

Modernize sentencing laws on theft and drug offenses and use a public health approach to address mental health and addiction.

Under the proposal, Illinois would decrease unnecessary admissions into prison, match modernized sentencing standards across the country, and limit criminal justice system involvement for non-violent offenders who need and would benefit from a public health intervention.

Reduce excessive lengths of stay in prison by providing pathways for people to earn opportunities for rehabilitation.

The state will increase access to sentence credit and time-limited supervised release while limiting penalty enhancements and short-term commitments that disproportionately trap low-income families and people of color in generational cycles of incarceration.

Prioritize rehabilitation and reduce the risk of recidivism by increasing access to housing and healthcare for returning residents.

The state wants to expand opportunities, supports, and services for people who are exiting the prison system so that they are set up to succeed upon return to their communities, and which will save taxpayers money by reducing the number of people trapped in a cycle of recidivism.

Increase police accountability and transparency for police officers and police departments.

The proposal suggests statewide standards for police officers.

“We will advocate for licensing of police officers, strengthen the role of the State Police Merit Board, work alongside police departments to ensure compliance and proper use of body-worn cameras, create a state-level avenue to investigate systemic police misconduct, and remove barriers for civilians to report officer misconduct, like the signed affidavit requirement,” the news release said.

Update and strengthen statewide standards for use of force by police officers.

This includes requiring police officers to apply first aid after using force, prohibiting no-knock search warrants, requiring the use of de-escalation techniques, and requiring officers  to intervene and report when excessive force is used by another officer.

Decriminalize minor non-violent offenses, improving police response to crowd control, and increasing language and disability access.

The proposal would decriminalize minor non-violent offenses, create policies and trainings for police response to non-violent crimes and protests, and increase language and disability access for civilians, Illinois will establish a framework to improve community safety and trust.

The state already has established policies for discretionary parole for young adults facing long sentences and increased the amount of incentives available for educational and wellness programming through sentencing credits. Illinois has also banned private correctional centers and private immigration detention centers.

Recent state legislation allows 20,000 people detained pre-trial each year to vote while in detention.

Pritzker has already pardoned more than 11,000 individuals for low-level cannabis offenses, and more are expected over the coming months.

SOURCE: state of Illinois news release