As we continue into a new legislative session, there seems to be a disturbing change when it comes to criminal justice policy proposals in Illinois.
When considering some of the measures that have been filed and introduced by members of the Democrat-majority, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend emerge. Alarmingly, much of the legislation being filed seeks to turn the criminals into perceived victims, sending a message that criminals deserve leeway and leniency regardless of their infraction. Meanwhile, victims of crimes and law-abiding citizens are being blamed for creating an environment that allowed for the creation of these criminals.
Rather than holding individuals accountable for their actions, measures are being brought before the General Assembly that seek to excuse personal responsibility. It’s evident from the long series of bills introduced just this year that overlook actions of these criminals, diminishes the harm committed and burden on our taxpayers.
Here are a few examples of Bills introduced this year:
Senate Bill 239: Seeks to raise the juvenile delinquency age for those charged with misdemeanors to age 20.
Senate Bill 1615: Among other things, it increases the felony threshold of theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, criminal damage to property, and criminal defacement of property to $2,500. In other words, any crime under $2,500 would be considered a misdemeanor.
Under the first two bills you could have a 19-year-old steal a car that was valued at $2,000 and he could only be charged a misdemeanor in Juvenile Court.
Senate Bill 2054: Allows offenders subject to the truth-in-sentencing provisions, including the most violent offenders, to be able to earn additional sentence credit for taking classes, substance abuse programs, behavior modification programs, life skills courses, re-entry planning, and correctional industry programs.
Senate Bill 1609: Reduces fines owed for criminals in county jail. This reduces money available to local governments and puts more pressure on property taxes.
Senate Bill 1158: Prohibits the ability for the state to recoup the cost of prisoner incarceration, including white-collar criminals or violent offenders with significant assets.
House Bill 3056: Provides that if two employees are equally qualified for a position and one has an arrest record, the employer shall not take adverse action against the employee with the arrest record. Furthermore, if an employer does account for criminal history, the potential employee can sue the employer for damages.
Senate Bill 2090: Requires voter registration and voting booths in jail to make it easier for those who are about to be convicted of a crime to vote. Meanwhile, we don’t provide the same services to long-term care facilities or in veterans homes.
Senate Bill 1786: Stipulates that regardless of how many parking tickets or traffic violations an individual obtains, the Secretary of State cannot suspend their driver’s license. For drivers who have had their license suspended, the State must reinstate them. Interestingly, if money is owed to the Secretary of State then, they still have the authority to suspend an individuals license.
Bills such as these unfortunately seem to be the new standard for criminal justice reform, jeopardizing safe society, signaling to our children that there are no consequences for their actions and sending the wrong message to victims of crimes.
Having said that, I’m not opposed to providing second chances for those individuals who are truly reformed, seek to better their lives or are dealing with mental illness. However, those are instances that should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis with law enforcement and within the court system, not through broad-brush, shortsighted policy changes.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about any of these measures or any other proposals that are being considered in the General Assembly, contact my office at 815-987-7555 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.