In February 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner created the Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform to make recommendations for amendments to state law that will reduce the state’s current prison population by 25% by 2025.
The Commission completed Part 1 of their report in December, 2015 with a series of recommendation that would make significant, long-term changes to the criminal justice system, and that would, in turn, safely and significantly reduce the state’s prison population over the next decade.
Some of the recommendations have now advanced to the level of Illinois State Senate and House Bills:
SB #3368: Requires IDOC and the Secretary of State to ensure that inmates have a State identification card upon release at no cost to the inmate, when their release plan contemplates Illinois residence. This ID card is needed to apply for a job, secure housing, and to receive treatment and medical care. Successful reentry is not possible without an individual having state identification.
SB #3294: Requires the Illinois Department of Corrections to increase use of electronic monitoring technology in lieu of imprisonment for both short-term inmates, pre-trial detention and inmates who are ready to be transitioned out of secure custody. The use of electronic detention would be based on risk assessment, need, and responsivity principles.
SB #3164: Gives judges the discretion to determine whether probation may be appropriate for the following offenses that include (a) residential burglary, (b) Class 2 felonies (second or subsequent), and (c) drug law violations.
HB #5973: Provides that for certain occupational licenses (barbering, cosmetology, roofing, accounting, real estate and funeral services), if the offense that a person was convicted for is not directly related to the professional field they seek to get a license for, then his/her conviction is not to be used as the sole basis for denying the license. This will help people achieve employment and to develop a career path when they reenter their community.
Other recommendation are pending for further clarification that include:
– Criminal Justice programs that are provided State funding should be evaluated for effectiveness and expanded if proven effective. Other programs that are ineffective should be eliminated. Programs should target offenders with high risks and needs.
– Felons with short lengths of stay of less than 12 months requires the IDOC to report its use of alternatives to imprisonment.
– Requires that a judge explain at sentencing why incarceration for a Class 3 or 4 felony is an appropriate sentence when the offender has no prior probation sentences or has no prior convictions for a violent crime.
– Inmates should be eligible to earn programming credits for successfully completing rehabilitative programming with the exception that it would reduce a sentence below the Truth-in-Sentencing limits.
– Make better use of adult transition centers based on risk-and-needs assessment. Residential transitional facilities with appropriate programming are reserved for high and medium risk offenders to obtain the greatest public safety benefit.
– Develop a protocol to provide for placement to home confinement or a medical facility for terminally ill or severly incapacitated inmates excluding those sentenced to natural life.
– Enhance rehabilitative programming in IDOC by implementing or expanding evidence-based programming that targets criminogenic needs, cognitive behavior therapy and substance abuse treatment. Prioritize access to programming to high-risk offenders.
(1) Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform – Final Report: Part 1 (12/2015)