2022 Legislative Agenda




While PA 99-0069 took mandatory life without parole for children off the books, we hope to make Illinois the 25th state to ban the use of “life without parole” for people 20 and younger. We want Illinois to implement legislation that effectively eliminates the sentence by expanding youthful parole opportunities for all individuals under 21 at the time of the offense. (This legislation will expand on the youthful parole opportunities created by the Youthful Parole Bill, HB 531, which Governor Pritzker signed into law in 2019.) (HB 1064, sponsored by Representative Rita Mayfield and Senate President Don Harmon)


Acknowledging young people are different, Governor Rauner signed HB 2471 into law in 2015. This negotiated legislation passed the Senate unanimously and was chief co-sponsored in the House by Representatives Barbara Flynn Currie, Scott Drury, Ron Sandack, and Ed Sullivan. Public Act 99-069 (HB 2471) made firearm enhancements discretionary for people younger than 18 and established a nine-point framework for setting appropriate sentences, as opposed to mandatory gun enhancements for everyone, regardless of circumstances. After years of experience and success for those under 18, HB 2989 would expand the nine-point framework and discretionary firearm enhancements to 18, 19, and 20 year olds. Illinois’s mandatory gun enhancements are the most severe in the country. Judges are required to add 15, 20, or 25 years to life to prison sentences of people who had firearms during the commission of certain felonies. Fifteen years are added if a firearm is possessed but not discharged; 20 are added if the gun is discharged with no injuries; and 25 years to life are added if there is a death or grievous injury. In 2015, Illinois made firearm enhancements discretionary for children younger than 18. New legislation would make firearm enhancements discretionary for 18, 19, and 20 year olds. Judges could still choose to apply the enhancements. (HB 2989, Amendments 2 & 3, Sponsored by Representative La Shawn Ford)


Mandatory minimums are a one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing that has taken away judges’ discretion and forced extreme sentencing of youth without consideration of the individual circumstances of a case. Long sentences leave people in prison years or even decades after they likely have aged out of crime. To fix this, HB 4565 would give judges the authority to decide appropriate sentences for people younger than 18 on a case-by-case basis and apply additional years to a sentence if appropriate. (HB 4565 – Representative Maurice A. West, II)


In Illinois, a person participating in an underlying felony can be charged and convicted of first-degree murder—a conviction that carries a minimum sentence of 20 years and, under certain circumstances, a maximum sentence of natural life—even if they did not actually kill the victim or intend to commit the murder. A conviction for felony-murder in Illinois carries a penalty of 20 to 60 years imprisonment and, under some circumstances, the maximum penalty can be extended to a term of natural life. Previously, a person could be charged with felony murder even when a third party (store owner, police officer, etc.) caused the death. That changed in 2021 with the SAFE-T Act (Public Act 101-0652). But, people can still be charged with murder when the person they are with causes the death. We want Illinois to reform felony murder so that people are not charged with a murder they did not commit.


Accountability is not the definition of a criminal offense; it is applied to people who are considered accessories or participants in a crime. Using Illinois’s theory of accountability, it is legal for a person to be arrested, charged, and convicted of a crime they not only did not commit, but also did not plan, agree to, or intend to commit. In fact, the person need not have even been present. These people can receive the same term of years in prison as the primaries in their case. Reform legislation proposes an alternative sentencing structure to reduce penalties for people who are considered accessories or participants, not the primaries, in a crime.

Opportunities for Release


Restore Justice Executive Director Jobi Cates represents sentencing reform advocates on the Resentencing Task Force. In 2021, Public Act 102-0099 (HB 3587, Senate Floor Amendment 5) created the Task Force to study innovative ways to reduce Illinois’s prison population through resentencing. The Task Force will submit recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by July 1, 2022. 


Illinois’s “Truth-in-Sentencing” (TIS) law is one of the biggest drivers of over-incarceration. This law severely limits the amount of time people convicted of certain offenses can earn off their sentences. The Restorative Sentencing Act would allow people with extreme sentences to receive sentencing credits if they complete rehabilitative programs. Incentivizing people to participate in restorative programming is one of the safest ways to reduce the prison population and prepare people to return to society.  (SB 2123/HB 3594 – Senator Robert Peters, Representative Justin Slaughter)

Prison Conditions


The United Nations and the World Health Organization have condemned the use of solitary confinement for extended periods of time. Yet, in Illinois, there are no limits on how long a person can be held in solitary confinement. HB 3564 creates the Anthony Gay Law, also known as the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. This bill limits the use of solitary confinement in prisons, jails, and immigration facilities. (HB 3564, sponsored by Representative La Shawn Ford and Senator Robert Peters)

Family Rights


In 2021, the General Assembly created a new role in the Illinois Department of Corrections to help people who have incarcerated loved ones. Public Act 102-0535 (SB1976) created a point of contact for people to call if they are denied access or mistreated in prison visiting rooms, or if they cannot get in touch with their loved one. In order to assess the issues people with incarcerated loved ones are facing, new legislation would require the point of contact to publish an annual public report. This report could be used by legislators to fix problems. (SB3180 – Senator Laura Fine, Representative Robyn Gabel)
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