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While PA 99-0069 took mandatory life without parole for juveniles off the books, we hope to make Illinois the 26th state to ban the use of “life without parole” for juveniles. We want Illinois to implement legislation that effectively eliminates the sentence by expanding youthful parole opportunities for most people 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)
Accountability is not the definition of a criminal offense but 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 individuals 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.
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. (HB 2989, Amendments 2 & 3, Sponsored by Representative La Shawn Ford)
Current Illinois reforms look forward and provide no relief to those already affected by outdated laws. To help 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 enhancements in cases involving juveniles, allowing judges to make case-by-case decisions about lengthening sentences for youth in adult court.
Our long-term work on a “Visitor Bill of Rights” continues with a proposal to provide a means of recourse for visitors who are mistreated, denied visits, or are otherwise deterred from having regular visitation with loved ones. (SB 1976, sponsored by Senator Laura Fine)