Proposals aim to roll back decades of failed criminal justice policies
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today announced her 2016 public safety legislative agenda that will create a fairer and more just criminal and juvenile justice system.
Together with legislative sponsors of and key partners who support the bills highlighted in the President’s agenda, County Commissioners and other local elected officials, Preckwinkle addressed a large crowd of social service providers, advocates, faith-based leaders, and community residents at the AFC Center, 7859 S. Ashland, Chicago.
Preckwinkle hailed the legislative package as a significant step in rolling back 30 years of failed tough-on-crime policies that have torn apart communities of color and failed to improve public safety. The agenda focuses on:
- Restoring judicial discretion for non-violent offenses by ending mandatory prison sentences and narrowing the scope of sentence enhancements;
- Treating drug abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue;
- Bringing juvenile justice laws in line with research and best practices;
- And giving the opportunity for second chances to juveniles sentenced as adults to lengthy prison sentences.
Preckwinkle said these changes will help to reduce the state prison population, and produce better outcomes for individuals, families and communities, while improving public safety.
“I am grateful to Sen. Kwame Raoul; Rep. Elaine Nekritz, the Assistant House Majority Leader; and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the House Majority Leader, for their leadership on these important pieces of legislation, and to the ACLU, the Cook County Public Defender and Restore Justice Illinois for their partnership,” Preckwinkle said.
“It is undeniable that the war on drugs and attacks on judicial discretion through tough-on-crime policies have failed. They have destroyed communities, particularly communities of color, wasted state and county resources by filling our jails and prisons, and ignored research and evidence about what works. These bills are a significant step in reversing those failed policies.”
The legislative agenda, and the sponsors, for this year consists of four bills:
- SB 3292 (Raoul) Once amended, will:
o Make residential burglary, second and subsequent Class 2 felonies, and certain drug violations probationable (per the recommendation of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform).
o Create misdemeanor-level possession of a controlled substance offense for 1 gram or under.
o Narrow the scope of the Class X sentence enhancement for repeat offenders to focus primarily on violent crimes.
- HB 6290 (Nekritz). Would ban commitment of juveniles to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice for any offense under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act.
- HB 6291 (Nekritz). Would end mandatory 5-year probation for juveniles for Class X and Forcible Felonies.
- HB 2470 (Currie). Would provide periodic judicial review of sentences for anyone sentenced to 40 years or more as a juvenile in adult court.
Reform of the County’s public safety system is a key component of President Preckwinkle’s policy agenda. Since she took office in 2010, Preckwinkle has successfully worked to institute major changes in bond court that have resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the number of County Jail detainees, invested millions in community-based programming to reduce violence and recidivism and keep people out of the system, worked with the Legislature to dramatically decrease the automatic transfer of youth to adult court, and overseen the end of a federal monitor at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
“As a member of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, I have studied these issues extensively. I have seen the data and I know the need to act while the time is right. I look forward to enacting these reforms for the betterment of all citizens of Illinois,” said Sen. Raoul who sponsored Automatic Transfer reform in the Senate last session.
I'm proud to continue working with President Preckwinkle and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice to restore integrity to our juvenile justice system,” said Rep. Nekritz, who sponsored Automatic Transfer reform in the House last year. “This legislative package focuses on right-sizing the juvenile justice system and matching youths with the appropriate services outside of incarceration.”
Rep. Currie, who has led the effort to reform harsh sentences for juveniles for many years, said, I am glad to have President Preckwinkle as a partner in this long-fought effort. Providing a youthful offender the opportunity for sentence review recognizes that a child who commits a crime is not the same as an adult who commits a crime. Children are not fully formed; they will grow, mature and change.
Preckwinkle pointed out that most of the proposals being offered are not necessarily new ideas, but have been discussed before and offered by many different groups.
It is the political will, public opinion and the lack of faith in the system within many communities that makes this an opportune time to act, Preckwinkle said, which is why she is working to build an organized coalition of stakeholders to move these reforms forward.
Dozens of organizations that were represented at the event have signed on in support of the agenda with more expected.
“We will need collective action to get this done and I plan to work with anyone who is willing to see these reforms through,” she said.