A prison-reform group says a measure to increase the threshold for what constitutes felony damage to property would help decrease Illinois’ prison population.
The General Assembly approved an increase in the dollar amount for property damage that could lead to felony charges. Currently damage to property in the amount of $300 could trigger felony charges. The measure that passed both chambers increases that amount to $500.
John Howard Association Executive Director Jennifer Vollen-Katz said the measure is in line with the governor’s push for criminal-justice reform and could help decrease the prison population.
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“These things are not OK. They’re things that we need to respond to, but perhaps the consequence of incarceration is more than is sensible as a response to that kind of behavior,” Vollen-Katz said.
Vollen-Katz said the current $300 threshold signals thoughtless and reckless behavior. “When you get to $500, given that difference in dollar amount, begins to signal behavior that is more serious, that took more thought, that resulted in damage that is more expensive to fix.”
Vollen-Katz supports the bill but said more needs to be done to update other thresholds that trigger felonies such as theft of property and personal possession of illegal substances.
Supporters of the legislation say the measure also brings Illinois more in line with national standards.
If signed by the governor any damage up to $500 would be a misdemeanor offense.