Criminal Justice Reform

Iā€™m tired of seeing politicians appear "tough on crime" by raising criminal penalties and barriers to reentry for incarcerated citizens increasingly higher. I spent over a decade working in the office of the Cook County State's Attorney. I saw firsthand  that in many cases, the hands of prosecutors and judges are tied by overly harsh mandatory minimums imposed in Springfield. 

As a legislator, one of my primary missions is to implement smart, bipartisan criminal justice reform. We lock up too many people, keep them for too long, and make it too difficult for them to reintegrate back into society when their release finally comes. Rather than act as a deterrent to recidivism, these punitive measures ensure that youthful mistakes become a lifetime of difficulty getting jobs and finding housing. Often, people in that desperate situation feel they have no choice but to turn back to crime.

In recent years, we have passed legislation increasing job opportunities for ex-offenders, expanding eligibility for record sealing, reducing overly harsh sentences, improving conditions and opportunities in prison facilities, and more.

This session, I passed a bill ensuring that pregnant women being detained pre-trial aren't forced to give birth in jail. I also passed a bill to prevent parolees from being swept back off to prison for "gang activity" because of totally innocuous contact with a friend or family member. I am also fighting, among other things, to expand probation eligibility, ensure that currently incarcerated persons can appeal their sentences when the legislature reduces penalties, and to mandate crisis training for new police officers.

Current Legislation

HB 899 Firearm Owners ID Revoke

HB 899 would penalize gun owners who don't do a good job of keeping track of their weapons when that results in the guns being used in the commission of crimes. If someone reports a gun lost or stolen 3 times in a two year span or fails to report a weapon lost or stolen which then is found in connection with a crime, the gun owner's Firearm Owner's Identification Card would be revoked for one year. We've included opportunities for appeal of the revocation in the instance of someone with unbelievable bad luck rather than ill intent, but in all honesty I feel strongly that while gun ownership is a right, it is also a responsibility. Losing or having stolen that many weapons seems the very definition of irresponsible.

HB 900 Cost of Incarceration

A decades old policy highlighted in a Tribune series in 2015 allowed the Department of Corrections to sue inmates found to have assets to reimburse the state for the cost of their incarceration. Along with former Sen. Daniel Biss I introduced a bill that would prohibit the practice. The bill passed with significant bipartisan support, but was amendatorily vetoed by then Governor Rauner in a way that exceeded his constitutional authority, rendering the bill dead. I've reintroduced the bill this year with Senator Robert Peters and am pleased to have the support of our new Attorney General Kwame Raoul. This bill passed out of committee last week and is on to second reading. HB 900 would repeal the provision in the Unified Code of Corrections that holds committed persons responsible to reimburse the Department of Corrections for expenses incurred by the incarceration at a rate determined by the Department.

HB 2039 Criminal Pro-Penalty Reduction

HB 2039 contemplates our ongoing work to rightsize our criminal justice system and acknowledges that there will be people currently incarcerated for things that will soon have either lower penalties or in some cases won't be crimes at all. Simply put, this will allow someone serving a sentence for a crime that has since either been reduced or decriminalized to petition the court for a new sentencing hearing. This is not unlike the ongoing changes we see in the aftermath of finally recognizing the disparate sentencing we saw for crack vs powder cocaine.

HB 2040 For Profit Contractors

HB 2040 would rename the Private Correctional Facility Moratorium Act to the For-Profit Corrections Prohibition Act, and prohibits the State or any local government from contracting with a private contractor or vender to provide services relating to correctional supervision.

HB 2321 Felony Name Change

Illinois is one of only 13 states with an outright prohibition on anyone with a felony being able to legally change their name. This has a particularly high impact on victims of human trafficking and people in the trans community. HB 2321 very simply lifts that ban and allows judges to grant the name change request if the petitioner can justify the change. This is more in line with the majority of states and gives judges the appropriate discretion to grant the petition if the petitioner is not a risk to the community.

I have not included all my legislation here, but please feel free to visit the Illinois General Assembly Website to view all the bills I have introduced or am co-sponsoring!