Restore Justice Illinois is proud to endorse Eric Rinehart for Lake County State’s Attorney.
Running against incumbent Mike Nerheim, Rinehart has strongly stated his commitment to building a system that reflects “a more nuanced and complex understanding of how institutional racism and classism have destroyed the ideal of ‘equal justice for all.’”
The Restore Justice team met Rinehart in September 2019 after Nerheim charged five teenagers with felony-murder in the death of their friend and cousin. Rinehart attended the community meeting Restore Justice Foundation organized and many related events as advocates sought to support the teenagers.
While charges were dropped in the 2019 felony-murder case, we remain concerned about the use of the statute and the county’s sentencing history, particularly as it relates to youth and young adults. Right now, there are 32 people serving sentences in the Illinois Department of Corrections for Lake County convictions that occurred before their 18th birthdays. Of those 32 people, 27 are Black or Latino. In addition, 10 Black or Latino people are currently serving life or de facto life sentences they received as children in Lake County, compared with three white people. Overcoming systemic racism requires proactive policy changes. Rinehart is the candidate who has stated a commitment to make those proactive changes, and that is why we are giving his campaign our support.
Rinehart acknowledges the role race has played in Lake County prosecutions and is committed to transforming the State’s Attorney’s Office. State’s attorneys hold tremendous power in our communities. Rinehart understands this and has promised to review the office’s current practices and to provide more transparency. “State’s attorneys make some of the most important decisions in the justice system. They decide what charges to file, whether to argue for high cash bail, whether to send the case to a diversion program, whether to make a plea bargain, how to conduct the trial, and what sentence to recommend to the court. Our office will make current data available online with respect to these decisions so that the residents of Lake County can understand what is going on in their community,” his website says. Read more about Rinehart’s transparency and accountability plan.
In August, Restore Justice Illinois launched our first-ever candidate survey. This survey is our effort to open dialogue with stakeholders, citizens, and candidates holding a variety of positions. We believe candid conversation is the best way to start on the path to consensus. Rinehart was the first state’s attorney candidate to complete the survey. He supports the Restore Justice-backed bills to abolish life without parole sentences for youth, to make firearm enhancements discretionary for everyone, and to amend Illinois’s felony-murder statutue. He also supports restoring earned sentencing credits to pre-1998 levels.
“I started this campaign because the Lake County courthouse is not treating people fairly, not holding police and prosecutors accountable, and is not fighting to reduce crime in underserved communities,” Rinehart writes. “One of the most exciting recent trends is that the voters are realizing that they can elect reform-minded prosecutors who acknowledge the legal system’s deep flaws but who also have the energy and vision to quickly implement reform without waiting on the General Assembly or Supreme Court.”
Find Rinehart’s complete survey responses here.
Restore Justice Illinois sent this survey to State’s Attorney Nerheim through the mail, email, and on Twitter. We also encouraged Lake County residents to call Mr. Nerheim. He has not completed the survey or responded.