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State's criminal justice commission releases its final report

In recognition of the fact that Illinois' prison population had spiked dramatically over the last four decades from less than 10,000 inmates to roughly 49,000, Governor Bruce Rauner signed an executive order back in February 2015 calling for the creation of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.

The commission, which was tasked with producing viable recommendations to help lower the state's prison population by 25 percent by 2025, thereafter conducted a comprehensive examination of all levels of the state's criminal justice system. These efforts culminated in the issuance of an initial report outlining 14 recommendations in December 2015, and, just last week, a final report supplying 13 additional recommendations.

Some of the more noteworthy recommendations found in the commission's recently published 94-page report include the following:

  • Lowering mandatory minimum sentences for all felony classes with the exception of Class 4
  • Supplying training for law enforcement officials, attorneys and judges on how to identify "implicit racial and ethnic bias"
  • Gathering data to better understand the degree to which minority communities are disproportionately affected by this aforementioned bias
  • Revising the language of a law prohibiting drug sales in protected areas (schools, parks, churches, etc.), such that the boundaries of a protected area are reduced from 1,000 feet to 500 feet and public housing is no longer considered a drug-free zone.
  • Lessening the sentencing classifications for felony-level drug offenses
  • Reintroducing the Halfway Back Program for those who violate the terms of mandatory supervised release
  • Expanding the availability of rehabilitative programming credit to all prison inmates
  • Setting the maximum mandatory period of supervised release for those convicted of Class 2, Class 1 and Class X felonies to 18 months

Now that the these final 13 recommendations have been provided to Governor Rauner, it remains to be seen which of them, if any, will be introduced as legislation during this year's session. To date, two of recommendations made in the commission's first report, including a law requiring ID cards to be provided to released inmates, have been signed into law.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you have been charged with any major state felony, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible as the stakes -- your reputation, your career, your future -- are simply too high.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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