January 19, 2021

Criminal Justice Bill Proposes Sweeping Reform

A criminal justice reform bill will soon make its way to the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Significant Criminal Justice Reform

House Bill 3653 is groundbreaking legislation that would bring significant changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

“One of the things that I’m excited about is the Pretrial Fairness Act,” said IL-81st District Representative Anne Stava-Murray. “And this ends the practice of monetary cash bail, which we all know disproportionately impacts people who can’t afford bail.”

The bill also would require all police officers to wear body cameras by 2025, makes it a felony for an officer to turn off their camera, and bans police chokeholds, among many other reforms.

Concerns from Law Enforcement

Governor Pritzker has expressed support for the bill, but some law enforcement officials have concerns.

DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said eliminating cash bail could be detrimental to the rehabilitation process his office has in place for those arrested who may be in need of treatment.

“Taking away my incarcerated from me and not letting me reform them is going to be more harmful than anything else,” he said. “I truly believe what we’re doing with this model this should be in the house bill.”

Mendrick cited programs that help criminals by getting them off drugs, treating mental health issues, and helping them get a job upon release.

He said he would have liked more law enforcement input in the shaping of the bill.

“My major concern is that the police weren’t involved in this,” said Sheriff Mendrick. “I would’ve loved to be involved in something like this. Police reform would’ve been a great thing to include the police in. The problem with not including us is people can have great idea, but it’s all smoke if it’s not all implementable. You want any program, you’re going to want to put time and effort to develop to be implementable. This one just seemed frankly sneaky.”

However, Representative Stava-Murray says chiefs of police and law enforcement experts were consulted as the bill was written.

Inspired by Nation-wide Protests

The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus authored the bill, which Stava-Murray cosponsored. She also said the impetus of the reforms came during the nation-wide protests in the summer of 2020.

“I think that we have been really forced to reckon as a country with the police violence that we have allowed to go on for far too long,” said Representative Stava-Murray. “So I think, making sure that we are being responsive to the largest civil rights movement in history was something that we thought about as a body and as a community.”

Naperville City Council will discuss a potential resolution calling for the governor not to sign the bill at its January 19 meeting.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.

 

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