2020 Legislative Agenda

Sentencing

 

FELONY-MURDER RULE REFORM – HB1615/SB2292

In Illinois, person can be charged and convicted of first-degree murder—a conviction that carries a minimum sentence of twenty years and a maximum sentence of natural life—even if they did not actually kill the victim or intend to participate in a murder. This legislation would ensure only those directly accountable for a death are charged with first-degree murder. This measure is sponsored by Representative Justin Slaughter and Senator Robert Peters. Read more about HB1615/SB2292.

 

ABOLISH DISCRETIONARY JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE – HB 5670

While PA 99-0069 took mandatory life without parole for juveniles off the books, we hope to make Illinois the 22nd state to ban the use of discretionary “life without parole” for juveniles. This legislation would effectively eliminate the sentence by expanding youthful parole opportunities for all individuals under 21 at the time of the offense. Juveniles could still be sentenced to and serve life sentences, but they would have limited opportunities to be reviewed by a parole board. 

 

MAKE ALL FIREARM ENHANCEMENTS DISCRETIONARY – HB4376

In 2015, HB2471 made firearm enhancements discretionary for juveniles. HB4376 would make such enhancements discretionary for all defendants, including adults. In Illinois, judges are currently required to add 15, 20, or 25 years to prison sentences of defendants convicted of certain felonies if the defendant had a firearm during the crime’s commission. Our state has the highest mandatory enhancement for possession in the country. This drives long sentences and contributes to prison overcrowding. This measure is sponsored by Representative LaShawn Ford. Read more about HB4376.

 

Opportunities for Release

 

RETROACTIVE REFORM MODEL

Current Illinois reforms look forward and provide no relief to those already impacted by outdated laws. To impact the current prison population, we have developed a vehicle to test a retroactivity mechanism that could be a model for other reforms. This legislation would make retroactive a 2015 law that restored judicial discretion for firearm charges in cases with juvenile defendants, allowing judges to make case-by-case decisions about lengthening sentences for youth in adult court.

 

Family Rights

 

VISITING ROOM VENDING MACHINE PRICE MARKUPS – HB3986

One vendor has the entire contract for the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) vending machine program. That vendor charges families in the visiting room 1.5 times more for the same items than it does prison staff (a 25 percent markup versus a 10 percent markup). Furthermore, the machines are often broken and empty. HB3986 would ensure more competition for vending machines, reducing costs and improving quality for visiting families. This measure is sponsored by Representative Kelly Cassidy. Read more about HB3986.

 

VISITOR OMBUDSMAN / LIAISON – SB2311

Family members visiting incarcerated loved ones have little to no redress when they are denied access or treated unfairly. Individuals in visiting rooms must rely on staff at a particular facility to address conflicts or concerns with facility staff. These same staff members may be directly involved in the issue. SB2311 would create a statewide point of contact for IDOC. This point of contact would be tasked with receiving complaints, suggestions, and requests from visitors. ​This bill is sponsored by Senator Laura Fine and Representative Robyn Gabel. Read more about SB2311. 

 

TELEPHONE ACCESS – SB2540

As phone calls have become more financially feasible for inmates in Illinois thanks to leadership in the Illinois General Assembly, access to phones in many facilities has become a serious, and at times dangerous, issue. There are not enough functioning phones. SB2540 would ensure every IDOC facility has at least one phone for every 10 inmates in their custody. SB2540 is sponsored by Senator Mattie Hunter. Read more about SB2540.

 

Prison Conditions

 

RIGHT TO VOTE – HB4377/HJRCA33

The right to vote is a basic democratic principle. This bill and constitutional amendment would ensure people who are incarcerated are able to vote. LaShawn Ford is the sponsor of these measures. 

 

DISCIPLINARY PRACTICES

Research has established solitary confinement has negative impacts on the mental and physical health of people who are incarcerated. Restore Justice Illinois is working on a legislative remedy that limits the use of solitary confinement to 10 days in any 180-day period. 

 

Government Transparency

 

DATA TRANSPARENCY AND ACCESS

Criminal justice data collection, storage, and sharing is flawed and inconsistent throughout Illinois. This obscures critical information about convictions that could have a profound impact on everything from prison placement to re-entry opportunities. Restore Justice Illinois is working on a legislative fix that would streamline and improve data collection and sharing processes in Illinois. 

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