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Illinois governor signs criminal justice reform bill

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) -- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has signed into law a controversial criminal justice reform bill.

House Bill 3653 passed in mid-January and has been on Gov. Pritzker's desk waiting to be signed into law. Some of the major reforms include ending cash bail by 2023, limiting use of force by officers, and mandating body cameras by 2025.

“For far too long, the criminal justice system has focused on over-incarceration policies and ignored crime survivors’ public safety priorities – but today, Gov. Pritzker has set Illinois on a course towards a safer and more equitable future,” said Aswad Thomas, managing director of the Alliance for Safety and Justice’s flagship program, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “These reforms are critical to addressing trauma and fostering healthier communities, while focusing on rehabilitative approaches that stop cycles of crime. Gov. Pritzker, the Legislative Black Caucus, and Attorney General Kwame Raoul deserve immense credit for prioritizing crime victims and public safety with this historic legislation.” 

The bill has drawn harsh criticism from state's attorneys, law enforcement, and Republican lawmakers.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition issued a statement about Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signing of the law enforcement and criminal justice legislation that passed the Illinois General Assembly during the Lame Duck Session:

“In signing this bill into law, Governor Pritzker chose to listen to a few strident political voices rather than the 120,000 petition signing citizens who plainly saw the bill for what it is. This new law is a blatant move to punish an entire, honorable profession that will end up hurting law-abiding citizens the most. Because we are sworn to protect and serve the public, we sincerely hope that we will not be proven right about this new law, that it won't cause police officers to leave the profession in droves and handcuff those who remain so they can't stop crimes against people and property. Please don't let us measure its dismal failure by the shattered lives it produces. We urge all citizens to remember who supported this law, and keep that in mind the next time they look to the police in Illinois for the protection they can no longer provide.”

Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition

The Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy also issued a statment Monday condeming the bill.

“Governor Pritzker will regret signing HB 3653, an outgrowth of the “defund police” movement. In signing this bill, the Governor is willfully undermining public safety - endangering citizens, emboldening criminals, and making Illinois less safe for families. It’s no surprise that in a recent statewide poll of law enforcement, 66% of police officers will now consider retiring early. Standing firmly behind the thin blue line, Illinois Republicans are appalled at the signing of this bill representing an all out attack on both public safety and the brave men and women who provide it.”

ILGOP Chairman Don Tracy

The governor's office stated HB 3653 improves the Illinois Department of Corrections’ (IDOC) sentence credit program that provides opportunities for people who are incarcerated to earn time off their sentences through good conduct and participation in rehabilitative programs – proven to reduce recidivism and break cycles of crime. Among other changes, the bill modernizes Earned Program Credits and increases the amount of time people can earn through these programs. 

The governor's added the legislation also takes several steps to expand access to victim services for survivors of crime in Illinois. These reforms include extending overall time limits to file victims compensation applications from 2 years to 5 years, as well as expanding compensation program coverage to family members by recognizing non-traditional households. Crime survivors currently on probation or parole will also no longer be barred from eligibility for the victim compensation program, and compensation caps for funeral expenses, loss of support, and loss of earnings will be increased. 

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Jim Roberts

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