74% of Illinois voters believe our criminal justice system is “broken.” In December 2016, a bipartisan Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform recommended specific reforms to safely reduce the prison population by 25%. Yet two years later, Illinois still has one of the nation’s most overcrowded prison systems, and many of the Commission’s most significant recommendations still have not been enacted into law, including:

  1. Reducing the sentence classification for all drug crimes by one class;
  2. Raising the felony threshold dollar amounts for retail theft and other nonviolent property crimes from their current levels to $2,000; and
  3. Allowing inmates who are currently required by statute to serve 85% or 100% of their sentences to earn additional sentence credit to reduce the length of their prison stays.  

Are you committed to working with the legislature to enact criminal justice reform measures? If so, what specific reforms do you consider your highest priorities, and what will you do to ensure that they are enacted? If not, why?


ERIKA HAROLD:

DID NOT RESPOND.


BUBBA HARSY:

I am committed to working with legislatures to enact criminal justice reform. My specific reforms that would be the highest priority would be to get non-violent marijuana offenders out of prison as soon as possible and treat other drug issues as mental health matters rather than criminal matters. Someone with a first offense for drug possession would receive medical treatment to address the underlying causes of substance abuse rather than being locked in a cage for a period of years without any real help to address the underlying problems. These people would not be charged with felonies for their first offenses either in an effort to provide legitimate rehabilitation to these individuals and allow them to find gainful employment after their rehabilitation.
 
The felony threshold for dollar amounts for retail theft and other nonviolent property crimes need increased to at least $2,000 from the current levels. I would actually look to have this threshold increased to $2,500 as has already been done in Wisconsin.
 
In regards to allowing inmates that are required to serve 85% or 100% of their sentences to earn additional sentence credits to reduce the length of their prison stay would have to be made on a case-by-case basis in, and I would not look for broad sweeping reform to allow these individuals out of prison sooner. Usually individuals required to serve 85% or 100% of their sentences have committed severe crimes and there are victims involved. While I would be open to the concept, I would have to be persuaded to support a reduction of their sentences and it would only occur in an extremely limited basis to the point it would not be the major focus of my goals of enacting criminal justice reform in Illinois.

KWAME RAOUL: 

Because of my experience as a prosecutor and my concern for low-income communities and communities of color throughout the state ravaged by violent crime and mass incarceration, I made criminal justice reform a touchstone of my legislative career. I have sponsored bills that addressed exoneration, expungement and sealing, moving juveniles out of adult prisons, alternatives to incarceration for non-violent and first-time offenders, sentencing reform, the abolition of the death penalty, prison conditions and employment opportunities for those with criminal records. I sponsored the creation of the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, to give those convicted based on confessions obtained through torture a second chance at justice. I passed legislation mandating investigation of all police-involved shootings. I served on the Sentencing Policy Advisory Council and the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. Over the years, I have built valuable relationships with public officials and organizations working on criminal justice reform, and I have persuaded many of my colleagues in the General Assembly to join the effort to reduce the prison population and the recidivism rate in Illinois. I can use these relationships as Attorney General to work effectively with the General Assembly on further progress toward common-sense criminal justice reform initiatives that make our communities safer and more prosperous.

My objectives are to continue developing Illinois’ alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-risk offenders and enforce the law on sealing and expungement of records (especially for juvenile ex-offenders and arrestees). We must explore expansion of the law on expungement to allow those still struggling under the weight of long-past transgressions the opportunity to move on when the circumstances warrant it.

Throughout the justice and correctional systems, I will advocate for the use of risk-based assessment tools to aid in matching people involved in the system with the programs and services that will best help them reintegrate into society and avoid recidivism.

Evidence tells us that untreated trauma feeds the cycle of violent crime when violence becomes normalized in a community and victims are disproportionately likely to become the next perpetrators. I will work to expand the trauma center pilot program I sponsored while in the Senate. I will also ensure that crime victim assistance funds handled by the Office of the Attorney General are distributed fairly, such that they target the populations and communities most profoundly affected by violent crime.


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