Criminal justice reform fails to advance. The General Assembly left Springfield for the summer without changing the way Illinois imprisons its low-level criminals.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle support reforming Illinois mandatory sentencing laws for low-level, nonviolent drug possession and theft crimes, but a bill that would have given judges more discretion to sentence perpetrators of these minor crimes to probation instead of jail stalled in the House.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois, said overcrowded prisons leave offenders with little chance at reform.
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"We draw people away from their communities like that," Yohnka said.We incarcerate them, often with little or no services whatsoever. The prisons are operating at such high capacity that they just aren't able, logistically or fundamentally, to provide that to them.There is growing bi-partisan recognition that our current system in which we determine who we incarcerate and how long we incarcerate them simply isn't working."
Yohnka said probation in lieu of prison means the offenders can still support themselves and their families.
"That person can still hold a job," he said. "They can contribute, not only in terms of their tax base, but contribute in support of their families."
Class 4 felony offenders make up the largest portion of Illinois' prison population.