In February 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner signed an executive order forming the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, a statewide taskforce whose express duties included devising workable solutions to help reduce the state's prison population by 25 percent by 2025.
As we previously discussed on our blog, the commission fulfilled its work admirably, providing an initial report with 14 recommendations in December 2015 and a final report with 13 recommendations in January 2017. Fast forward to the present and the governor has now signed a criminal justice reform bill incorporating several of these recommendations, otherwise known as the Neighborhood Safety Act, into law.
Supporters say the bill, which took effect earlier this month, say it will not only reduce the prison population by ensuring that punishments are commensurate with the offense committed, but that it will also help ensure that those leaving prison are indeed reformed.
To that end, some of the more noteworthy features of the Neighborhood Safety Act, include:
- While federal funding exists for the formation and operation of "trauma recovery centers" in state prisons, Illinois has no such resource in any of its correctional facilities. The bill changes this by calling for their creation, such that state inmates have access to job training, rehabilitation and other programs that increase rehabilitation and decrease recidivism.
- Changing the law such that certain offenses are now eligible for probationary sentences, meaning judges are now vested with the discretion to place offenders on probation as opposed to automatically sending them to prison for crimes like cocaine possession, marijuana trafficking and other drug-related crimes.
- Expanding the availability of rehabilitative programming credit to eligible prison inmates, such that in addition to the one day of credit for each day served, they could earn additional days off their sentences for "good conduct" provided they undergo a risk assessment and satisfy certain criteria. Those inmates sentenced for committing a "truth-in-sentencing" offense, such as murder, would be ineligible.
Here's hoping we see major and meaningful change come from the Neighborhood Safety Act …
If you have been charged with any major state felony, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible given the gravity of the stakes.