Governor J.B. Pritzker announced his agenda for criminal justice reform in the State of Illinois yesterday at Kennedy King College during a fireside chat. Pritzker outlined 3 major priorities for reform. Pritzker is looking to end the cash bail system, reform low-level drug convictions to focus on substance abuse treatment programs, and reduce excessive prison sentences to lower Illinois’ prison population. “I would also like to see work on reducing mandatory minimum sentences, giving judges more discretion to take into account circumstances in each case.”
Pritzker says that the cash bail system is more of a cost to taxpayers than to the criminal. “The cost of putting people in jail and having them sit there because they don’t have the tools the money for bail – that’s a cost to taxpayers that we ought to take into account.” Pritzker says that taxpayers pay $1.4 billion a year to house over 40,000 prisoners in the state each year.
Lieutenant Governor Julianna Stratton released a report from the Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative on January 1st to the governor’s office with some of the recommendations. She said that the state has begun working with a college group to look at how children of incarcerated parents deal with the trauma of losing their parents to jail time. Stratton said that State Treasurer Michael Frerichs’ Office is setting up a college fund for children of incarcerated parents so those children will have an opportunity to get a higher education. Stratton believes that the path to end the cycle of incarceration is through educational opportunities.
The criminal justice reform agenda must now be drafted into legislation for passage by the Illinois General Assembly during their upcoming term beginning on January 28th.