UPDATE 11/14/19: HB 1614 did not pass in the General Assembly before its adjournment. We look forward to continuing to work on this legislation.
In Illinois, shoplifting an item with a value of just $300 or more (e.g., a smartphone) is a felony that can result in a prison sentence. Only two states have lower thresholds. Outdated policies like this low felony retail theft threshold has resulted in Illinois having one of the largest and most overcrowded prison system in the county with more than 10,000 prisoners in excess of its design capacity. Half of the state’s prison population is serving time for low level offenses that commonly occur as a result of unaddressed issues of poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, and trauma. The repercussions of a felony conviction including challenges to finding housing, employment, and education opportunities compound these already unaddressed issues that result in increased recidivism.
HB 1614 would:
- Set the felony threshold at $2,000 for retail theft and theft; (from $300 and $500); and
- Provide that automatic penalty enhancements shall apply only in cases where the person has been previously convicted of a felony (rather than any theft offense).
If enacted, HB 1614 would result in a net decrease of 1,100 inmates incarcerated in the Department of Corrections, saving over $37 million in taxpayer money per year.