SPRINGFIELD - In 2016, roughly 6.6 million people were stalking in the United States according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is pushing for Senate Bill 623 which would expand Illinois’ stalking laws to include stalkers who use technological means such as phone tracking applications to pursue their victims.“Your phone should be a tool to help you feel safe, not make you more vulnerable to potential stalkers,” Cullerton said. “We live in an age where we take our phones everywhere. If a stalker has access to tracking applications on a victim’s cellphone it will accelerate dangerous behavior.”
SPRINGFIELD – To end a system that punishes the poor, State Senator Donne Trotter is sponsoring a proposal that eliminates the state’s antiquated monetary bond process.
“Rather than providing all persons arrested an equitable opportunity to leave custody, it is only afforded to those who can pay the bond,” said Trotter, D-Chicago. “This antiquated bond process only increases the likelihood of low-income people being arrested for petty crimes and enduring harsher conditions than people from affluent backgrounds who commit the same crime. These trends of partiality toward people with wealth are prevalent in the justice system.”
The budget impasse has created a greater need for cost saving measures in Illinois. One area in great need of reform, said Trotter, is the prison system. The state squanders valuable resources on the holding of low risk offenders if they are unable to make bond.
The legislation is Senate Bill 552 which is in the Senate Criminal Law committee. An identical bill, House Bill 3717, has a hearing on Tuesday in the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee. These two pieces of legislature are critical in the fight against inequity in the justice system that hurts minorities and poorer families.
Senator Donne E. Trotter is a Chicago Democrat and leading advocate for justice reform.
SPRINGFIELD — Veterans could soon gain expanded access to rehabilitation treatment through the Veteran and Servicemember Court program under a proposal that was approved in the Senate Criminal Law Committee yesterday. The measure, sponsored by State Senator Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), allows veterans to request to participate in the Veterans Treatment Court after sentencing.
Often veterans do not recognize they have a problem or want to address the issue until after sentencing. At that point, under current law, they are no longer eligible to receive assistance.
“Unfortunately, a number of our veterans are struggling with substance and alcohol abuse as a result of their time in the Armed Forces, and we need to make sure they can take advantage of programs that help with their reintegration,” said Munoz, an Army veteran.
The Veterans Treatment Court is a structured system that requires participants to report to meetings with a probation officer, report to appointments with a VA case manager, attend drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs as required, and adhere to other recommendations and requirements.
Veterans who complete the VTC program may have their original charges dismissed, have their sentence terminated or be discharged from any further proceedings.
Senate Bill 1312 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) spent the week asking Illinois agencies to address Governor Bruce Rauner’s nearly $5 billion budget deficit.
The $5 billion budget deficit would in turn mean a 20 percent budget cut across the board for Illinois agencies and programs.
Hastings, chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Criminal Law, brought in agency directors from the Illinois State Police and Illinois Department of Corrections to directly ask them where the 20 percent state agency cuts would come from.
Illinois Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin did not appear in front of the committee or notify the committee of any scheduling conflicts.
“The director of the Illinois Department of Corrections did not bother to notify the committee of his absence,” Hastings said. “It is offensive for directors to not come to Senate committees unprepared to answer questions. However, it is unimaginable for a director to not even bother to show up to committee. Come to work, do your job and explain the budget.”
The Illinois State Police (ISP) is hoping for additional state funding to meet public safety needs. ISP needs to train additional cadets to fill workforce needs and keep Illinois safe.
Governor Rauner did not seem to consult with the ISP while developing his proposed budget.
“There is a void in leadership,” Hastings said. “The governor needs to lead our state forward, not obstruct progress. We are going on year three without a budget. We know our people are hurting. Governor, you need to step up and do your job.”
ISP and IDOC did not list any potential budget cuts to meet the governor’s nearly $5 billion deficit.
Hastings is looking forward to meeting with the Director Baldwin during Senate appropriations hearings.
SPRINGFIELD - Donovan Allen was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 15 years based on testimony from a jailhouse informant who was provided incentives for testifying.
Because of DNA evidence, Allen's case was overturned.
State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) advanced Senate Bill 1830 to help prevent people like Allen from being wrongfully convicted.
“If defense attorneys provided similar incentives, they would be charged with bribing witnesses,” Hastings said. “Cases similar to Allen are showing us that you get what you pay for. If you incentivize testimony, people are likely to lie and innocent people go to jail.”
Some of the incentives offered to “jail house snitches” include criminal charges dropped or lighter sentences given.
Senate Bill 1830 puts protections in place to work toward giving defendants a fair trial. It will allow jailhouse informant testimony to be challenged for reliability as well as require the prosecution to disclose any intent to introduce informant testimony at least 30 days prior to the hearing.
”Sending the wrong person to prison doesn’t make our neighborhoods any safer,” Hastings said.
The Illinois Innocence Project approached Hastings to introduce this initiative to help promote a fair and just use of testimony from jailhouse informants.
"Illinois is once again paving the way as a leader in addressing the causes of wrongful convictions. This bill would add much needed protections to ensure the reliability of jailhouse informant testimony, which will help ensure the rights of the innocent,” Amol Sinha, State Policy Advocate with the Innocence Project said. “We thank Senator Hastings for his dedicated leadership and look forward to working with stakeholders and both chambers of the General Assembly to prevent wrongful convictions in Illinois."
Senate Bill 1830 passed the Senate’s Committee on Criminal Law with bipartisan support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) advanced a measure through the Senate Criminal Law Committee on Tuesday to allow Illinois to prosecute perpetrators of drug-induced homicide more effectively.
The measure, Senate Bill 639, expands the offense of drug-induced homicide to include delivery of a controlled substance under the laws of another jurisdiction if the resulting death occurs in Illinois.
“This measure is about deterrence and making it clear we will not stand for illicit drug dealers providing lethal narcotics in our state,” Haine said. “Drug use has become an epidemic, and we must not stand idle while our young people are dying due to overdose.”
The legislation is in response to incidents where judges have acquitted defendants charged with drug-induced homicide because the substance that caused the death did not come from Illinois. This bill seeks to resolve that gap so defendants are not acquitted of this offense when the illicit substance was delivered in another jurisdiction, but the death occurs in Illinois.
The measure passed out of the committee on Tuesday and will now go to the Senate floor for final action.
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) lauded the signing of several criminal justice reform measures he sponsored this year as part of a larger push for commonsense, data-driven approaches to law enforcement, sentencing, incarceration and the reintegration of ex-offenders.
“Illinois is again pushing forward as a pioneer of criminal justice reform – because it saves money, because it saves lives and communities and because it’s the right thing to do,” Raoul said. “These new laws on juvenile justice, expungement, access to licensed professions and sex offender registration policies will help bring the realities of criminal justice in line with its aims of genuine public safety and lasting rehabilitation.”
CHAMPAIGN - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) has been tasked with leading the Senate’s committee on Statues of Limitation. The focus will be on evaluating statutes of limitation for felony criminal sexual abuse and sex crimes against children.
Possible issues with Illinois’ current statutes came to light due to developments involving former Republican U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who admitted in court that he sexually abused teenage boys when he was a wrestling coach in Yorkville.
“The committee will take some time to study and assess pending legislation to figure out whether they are fair and essential,” Bennett said. “It’s important for government to evolve with the needs of the people.”
Senator Cunningham (D-Chicago) discusses his proposal to ensure that DNA testing taken after reported sexual assaults are sent to the proper labs for testing.
SPRINGFIELD – In 2010, Cook County released more than 5,000 defendants accused of drug-related crimes after determining there was no probable cause for their arrests. Many had been sitting in Cook County jail for more than 25 days awaiting their probable cause hearing. Each day these men and women sat in jail cost county taxpayers $143 – or more than $3,000 for a 25-day stay. It cost them and their families even more from lost time at work and the anguish of having a loved one in jail. Many of these offenders came from low-income families that could not afford to post bail.
Why? Because law enforcement agencies in Cook County send recovered substances to the State Crime Lab to determine whether they are in fact drugs, which takes weeks. Police in every other county use a simple field drug test that costs little more than $1, which could have dramatically reduced the cost to Cook County and the suffering of these people and their families.
The plan championed by Harmon creates a pilot program in Chicago to perform field drug tests for marijuana, cocaine and heroin. If it is successful, the field testing program could be expanded to the whole county. Establishing field drug testing in Cook County could also reduce pressure on the state crime lab, which currently analyzes all suspected drugs from the state’s most populous area.
“Cook County deserves the opportunity to save taxpayer money and reduce prison crowding,” said State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the measure’s sponsor. “This program works in every other county in Illinois. I have high hopes that it will work here, cutting costs and reducing unnecessary jail time.”
The legislation is House Bill 356. It takes effect immediately.
SPRINGFIELD — Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) sponsored legislation this year that would allow arrest records of individuals who are wrongly arrested because of mistaken identity to be deleted without the person having to file a petition for expungement.
Today, Martinez’s proposal became law.
“Individuals who were mistakenly arrested should not have difficulty clearing their names,” Martinez said. “We need to make it as easy as possible for them to get their reputation back and move on with their lives.”
Prior to the new law, the Crime Identification Act allowed individuals who were mistakenly arrested but not charged to seek expungement of their records. However, they were required to pay a fee and file a petition.
This will now change.
Under Martinez’s legislation, a police chief, county sheriff or state’s attorney will be able to request an investigation into whether or not a person was wrongly arrested. If a mistake was made, that individual’s records must be deleted from the law enforcement agency’s records that made the arrest.
House Bill 169 is effective January 1, 2016.
With so much attention drawn to the state’s ongoing budget impasse, historic accomplishments are too often overlooked.
This year, lawmakers in both chambers and from both sides of the aisle did find compromise on a number of issues to improve the lives of Illinoisans and the safety, health and economic future of our state.
Springfield’s NPR radio station, WUIS, covers developments at the Capitol. Recently, the station published an article looking past the friction to find positive achievements during the 2015 legislative session. Their story includes an interview with Charlie Wheeler, director of UIS’ Public Affairs Reporting program, and Jamey Dunn, Editor of Illinois Issues. Their analysis focused on achievements in criminal justice, including Senate Bill 1304, a comprehensive law enforcement package expected to be a model for reform across the US.
SPRINGFIELD – New legislation creating law enforcement reforms was signed into law today. State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago, 3) supported the bipartisan push for officer-worn body camera protocols.“Law enforcement reforms help protect the safety of both officers on duty and citizens. Our communities are stronger when there is trust and practices in place to create accountability,” Hunter said. The proposal, Senate Bill 1304, would make Illinois one of the first states in the nation to adopt the recommendations of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The law implements the following recommendations:
The measure also bans the use of chokeholds by police and expands the Traffic Stop Statistical Study –which provides insight into racial disparities in motor vehicle stops and searches—to include pedestrians whom officers “stop and frisk” or temporarily detain for questioning.The state is set to become the first state with standards and protocols for the use of body cameras by any of the state’s law enforcement agencies. These policies include:
The law goes into effect on January 1.
SPRINGFIELD – Legislation creating law enforcement reforms was signed into law today. State Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago 17) supported the bipartisan effort to create new body camera protocols, making Illinois one the first states in the nation to adopt the recommendations of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
“Now, more than ever, Illinois needs to lead the country in pushing for the use of body cameras by officers. Reforming law enforcement practices will go a long way in reducing the distrust between the public and the police,” Trotter said.
Senate Bill 1304, sponsored by Chicago Democrats Representative Elgie R. Sims, Jr. and Senator Kwame Raoul, implements several recommendations of the federal task force by:
The measure also bans the use of chokeholds by police and expands the Traffic Stop Statistical Study –which provides insight into racial disparities in motor vehicle stops and searches—to include pedestrians whom officers “stop and frisk” or temporarily detain for questioning.
The state is set to become the first state with standards and protocols for the use of body cameras by any of the state’s law enforcement agencies. These policies include:
The commission will be created immediately. The bill goes into effect on January 1.
CHICAGO – State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) introduced a measure in the Senate last week to ban replica firearms in response to the latest trend of mobile phone cases shaped like handguns.
“Gun violence in our country is out of control and accidental shootings take and destroy lives,” Silverstein said. “The development of mobile phone cases – as well as lighters and cameras – shaped like handguns is a dangerous, terrible idea. It is only a matter of time before a replica gun is mistaken for a real gun and its owner is shot.”
Law enforcement officials are warning these items look authentic and may result in the shooting of someone carrying a gun-shaped phone case.