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Rauner, lawmakers announce overhaul of criminal justice system


Gov. Bruce Rauner and state officials announce new legislation on Wednesday, March 2.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and state officials announce new legislation on March 2. PHOTO/ Elaine Rojas-Castillo

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators announced March 2 a bipartisan effort to reform the Illinois criminal justice system.

Three proposed bills address electronic monitoring, judicial sentencing and ID cards for ex-offenders.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), along with state Rep. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), sponsored Senate Bill 3294, which expands the use of electronic monitoring in order to help offenders transition back into society.

The bill, Raoul said, would increase public safety by more effectively focusing Illinois Department of Corrections’ supervision and programming resources to reduce the recidivism rate in the state.

In a press conference along with other legislators, Raoul stressed the commitment state officials have in made combating this issue.

“This is one of those areas where we agree that something’s got to be done,” Raoul said. “Something’s got to be done for the benefit of our state, something’s got to be done for our communities. That’s what we’re working towards.”

The second Senate bill, 3164, sponsored by state Sen. Michael Connolly (R-Wheaton) and state Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport), calls for probation or other alternatives to prison for offenders with no previous convictions when appropriate.

In 2015, almost 60 percent of all new prisoners for Class 3 or 4 felonies had no previous violent crime convictions, the Office of the Governor reported.

By sending low-level criminals with no previous violent convictions to prison, the state ineffectively uses its resources, potentially causing those individuals to re-offend, Connolly said.

State Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-West Dundee) and state Rep. John Cabello (R-Loves Park) sponsored the third Senate bill, 3368, which would require the Secretary of State’s office to work with the Illinois Department of Corrections to give state ID cards to offenders once they leave prison in order to have a smoother transition back into society.

With almost 50,000 offenders currently incarcerated, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Rauner hopes these bipartisan efforts can cut that number down by 25 percent over the next decade.

In pledging his support for the legislation, Rauner said this initiative will help correct a decades-long flaw in Illinois’ criminal justice system.

“Our criminal justice system, in my view, has been broken in Illinois for decades,” Rauner said. “This is a long-term structural challenge that needs to be solved.”

Earlier that day, law enforcement officials from across the state voiced their concerns that the current state budget standoff is hurting youth crime reduction efforts.

With the creation of this bipartisan legislation, leaders on both sides hope these efforts will begin to address and repair the issues that have plagued the state for years.

These crucial reforms, Raoul said, will not only help individual neighborhoods, but will work toward advancing the state community as a whole.

“Illinois is expecting and demanding this from us,” Raoul said. “This is not the end of the process, it’s just the beginning.”

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