Rauner Signs Criminal Justice Reform Bills
In an increasingly rare show of bipartisan agreement, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has signed a number of bills into law that are intended to bolster the state’s effort to reform existing Illinois criminal justice laws, especially with respect to juveniles. Citing a need to help individuals gain a second chance at becoming productive citizens and avoiding a cycle of incarceration, Rauner acknowledged the fact that most crime is attributable to factors such as mental illness, addiction, and a lack of basic job skills or training. As a result, Rauner characterized these reforms as a more compassionate view of the criminal justice system designed to focus on rehabilitation in order to prevent recidivism and promote reunification of families.
SB 3164 requires that prior to sentencing, courts must review presentencing reports and provide an explanation as to why incarceration is appropriate for offenders with no prior probation sentences or prison convictions. The Governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform recommended this reform based on the fact that in 2015, almost 60% of new prison admissions for Class 3 or Class 4 felonies had no prior violent crime convictions. The standard sentences of incarceration for low-level offenders is an inefficient use of prison resource and can even make these offenders more likely to reoffend in the future.
This amendment to the Juvenile Court Act changes the minimum probation period for a youth adjudicated delinquent. This ensures that low-level juvenile offenders will receive treatment for addictions before simply being sent to prison. Rauner stated that this bill is in line with other states’ policies on the issue and the latest research regarding the incarceration of juveniles.
Under current Illinois law, when a juvenile is charged with an offense that the court later dismisses without finding the juvenile to be delinquent, he or she cannot petition the court to expunge the record of the arrest and charges until he or she turns 18. This bill amends the current law to allow the juvenile to seek expungement immediately following the dismissal of the offense.
Finally, HB 6200 reduces rates that the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice can charge for contracts with telephone providers. This bill allows inmates to be able to keep in contact with their families at a lower cost, particularly in comparison to the notoriously high charges for inmate phone calls.
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With skyrocketing rates of incarceration, mental illness, and addiction across the state and nationwide, it is time for Illinois legislators to start looking at ways to reform the criminal justice system in order to prevent crime in the future and lower the prison population. This is precisely what Governor Bruce Rauner has done in signing these juvenile justice bills into law. While much progress is still needed, these bills are a step toward allowing juveniles and low-level offenders who have committed crimes to get a second chance in life and avoid a lifelong cycle of incarceration. As your Naperville criminal defense attorneys, we are committed to helping you navigate the Illinois criminal justice system and protect your future by minimizing the penalties that you may be facing. Contact our office today to set up an appointment, and see how we can help.