Raoul reflects on five years since abolition of death penalty

raoul 5yrDP

State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) reflected today on the fifth anniversary of the signing of legislation he sponsored to abolish the death penalty in Illinois.

“When I introduced legislation to end capital punishment in Illinois, I was motivated by new revelations concerning individuals who were on Death Row for crimes they had not committed,” Raoul said. “Unfortunately, many of the same factors that enabled that shameful situation are still present in our system, and accordingly, we have expanded our efforts to encompass not only the enduring problem of wrongful convictions and false confessions, but policies and cultures that produce unjust outcomes and do not make our communities safer.”

In the years since death penalty abolition, Raoul has continued to push legislation addressing law enforcement misconduct; prison overcrowding; racial disparities in traffic stops, arrests and sentencing; DNA testing backlogs; the need for reform in juvenile justice and more. He has sponsored programs that offer alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders, and he has supported funding for Redeploy Illinois, which provides grants to courts and counties that adopt innovative, data-driven models to rehabilitate offenders and reduce recidivism. Having served on the governor’s Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform Commission, Raoul is now working to ensure passage of legislation that would implement many of the recommendations the task force issued.

“The struggle against the discriminatory, unreasonable or ineffectual application of our laws did not end with the abolition of capital punishment; in many ways, that legislation and the debate surrounding it were only the beginning,” Raoul said. “The good news is that the past five years have seen the rapid rise of bipartisan interest in smarter strategies to improve public safety and end racial disparities. Whether we’re talking about the economic impact of ex-offenders being unable to find jobs, the social impact of extremely high incarceration rates in certain neighborhoods or the budgetary impact of recidivism, the case for reform is clear.”

“We are making a noticeable dent in the considerable problems still facing Illinois’ justice system,” Raoul said. “I believe the prospects for progress are better now than ever.”