SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13) released the following statement on the Senate’s vote on parts of the grand bargain budget deal:
"I am disappointed that Senate Republicans refused today to support elements of the grand bargain budget deal – parts that they requested and have supported in the past. During the debate, many Republican senators referred to these pieces of legislation as “easy,” and yet they failed to vote for them. If they are not willing to act on the low-hanging fruit of this overall negotiation, they are clearly not motivated to deal with the unprecedented and unacceptable budget impasse.
"I do believe many of my Republican colleagues wanted to vote in favor of these measures, but they were undermined by the governor’s office and members of the far right, who are sabotaging work towards a compromise that will allow us to create the stability our state needs."
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.”
Legislation would loosen ban on ex-offenders in barbering, roofing and funeral services
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) secured the Senate’s approval today for a measure that would open up several licensed professions to some ex-offenders at the discretion of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Individuals who have committed misdemeanors and non-violent felonies unrelated to their chosen professions would be eligible to earn licenses to be barbers, roofers or funeral directors – and the department would be required to consider mitigating factors such as how long ago the crime occurred, the applicant’s age at the time and whether the offense would have any bearing on the person’s ability to do the job in question.
“So many occupations in Illinois require licenses that a blanket ban presents a significant and unjustified barrier to employment and self-sufficiency and ultimately increases the risk of recidivism,” said Raoul, who served on the governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. The Commission recommended a critical reexamination of laws that mandate the denial of a professional license to someone with past criminal convictions.
In Illinois, 24 percent of the workforce must have a state-issued occupational or professional license in order to work, and current state law stipulates that the state either may or must deny 118 types of licenses to applicants with criminal records. Thirty-nine percent of Illinois adults have a criminal history that could exclude them from some jobs or licenses.
“When men and women are released from prison in Illinois and find that they can no longer practice an occupation they are trained to do, the state is depriving them – essentially without due process – of their ability to support themselves, meet financial obligations such as child support and take pride in their work,” Raoul said. “This legislation gives the licensing authority broad discretion to consider each applicant on a case-by-case basis and make a decision that benefits the profession and the economy instead of enforcing a one-size-fits-all ban that doesn’t make the public any safer.”
House Bill 5973 now goes back to the House for concurrence in changes the Senate made to the measure.
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) reminded Illinoisans that the start of the new year will bring sweeping, positive changes to the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system accomplish their vital work. On Jan. 1, 2016, several landmark justice measures, including long-awaited standards for the use of police body cameras, will take effect.
“For far too long, our criminal justice system has reinforced racial disparities and provided poor outcomes for taxpayers, ex-offenders, families and communities alike,” Raoul said. “We are finally seeing a bipartisan movement to examine and, when necessary, overhaul law enforcement, sentencing and corrections practices so they’re fair and they work.”
Raoul sponsored and secured passage of a major policing reform measure in May. Changes in the law that take effect in the new year include
- Establishing minimum policies and standards for the use of body cameras by law enforcement agencies that choose to deploy the uniform-mounted devices
- Requiring an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and creating a mechanism for the appointment of a special prosecutor in sensitive cases, including alleged police misconduct
- Prohibiting the use of chokeholds by police
- Expanding mandatory law enforcement officer training to include cultural competency, implicit bias, the proper use of force and interacting with sexual assault victims and persons with disabilities
- Requiring officers to issue a “stop receipt,” including the officer’s name and badge number, to a pedestrian stopped for any reason
- Creating a database of officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct or resigned during a misconduct investigation, so rogue cops aren’t hired unknowingly by other departments
On Jan. 31, 2016, a task force assembled under the new law is scheduled to submit its recommendations on licensing police officers in Illinois for added accountability.
Raoul, who serves on the governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, also sponsored two important juvenile justice laws that will take effect Jan. 1.
One will eliminate all automatic transfers of children charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts and give judges greater discretion to decide the best setting for trying and sentencing minors based on the particulars of each case. Another will prevent juveniles from being committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses. It also ensures that no minor will be confined to a DJJ facility for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense.
“Whether it’s a young African-American man encountering a police officer on the street, a mother concerned about her children’s safety on the walk to school or an ex-offender trying to turn his life around and support his family, we are working hard to achieve the American dream of equal access to safety, security and justice,” Raoul said. “As the Commission continues its task and as both lawmakers and the public become more aware of the disparities and shortcomings in our criminal justice system, I’m confident we’ll see additional policies enacted to supplement the major reforms poised to take effect.”
Sen. Kwame Raoul
Years served: 2004 - Present
Committee assignments: Criminal Law (Vice-Chairperson); Judiciary (Chairperson); Public Health; Committee of the Whole; Energy and Public Utilities; Executive; Committee on Restorative Justice (Co-Chairperson).
Biography: Attorney; born September 30, 1964; Bachelor's degree from DePaul University; J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law; has two children.