Governor Pat Quinn today signed several new laws that together will improve public safety and criminal justice in Illinois. Senate Bill 2621 increases accountability in the state's prison system by setting new guidelines that strengthen the Department of Corrections' (DOC) ability to manage the state's prison population. Forty-six other states have adopted similar laws, which also encourage non-violent offenders to pursue positive rehabilitation strategies.
"Ensuring public safety is my top priority," Governor Quinn said. "This is good criminal justice policy and good public safety policy that will manage our prison population and make non-violent offenders less likely to commit crime in the future."
SB 2621, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), passed both houses with bi-partisan support and has been endorsed by many criminal justice organizations, including the John Howard Association. The law increases safety inside prisons by allowing DOC to award sentence credit to non-violent offenders who have shown willingness to correct their behavior through successful completion of rehabilitation.
Sentencing credit has existed in Illinois law since 1978 but under the new law, inmates would only be eligible to receive sentence credit after serving at least 60 days in DOC custody. Inmates who display appropriate, positive behavior will be reviewed and evaluated by DOC to determine whether they are eligible to receive credit. Under the new law, DOC will consider and evaluate an inmate's prior offenses, the circumstances of the inmate's current holding offense, as well as the offender's potential for rehabilitation prior to the decision to award sentencing credit. DOC will also have the right to revoke credit if an inmate demonstrates negative or violent behavior. As a result of the Governor's 2009 Crime Reduction Act, there will also be a risk assessment tool in place this year to ensure that sentences are administered according to individual evaluation of the inmate.
SB 2621 also increases transparency by requiring DOC to provide annual reports to the Governor and General Assembly containing program statistics, how the new policies are being implemented and how sentence credit is being awarded. Additionally, county state's attorneys, county sheriffs and the committing county will receive notification two weeks prior to an inmate's release.
In order to qualify for sentencing credit, inmates will be required to successfully complete rehabilitation treatments, which could include substance abuse treatment, adult education, and behavior modification or life skills programs. Inmates may also receive sentence credit for passing the Test of General Educational Development (GED) while in DOC custody.
"Presenting inmates with an additional incentive for good behavior will improve the environment inside our facilities and allow the department to focus our efforts on violent criminals," said Illinois Department of Corrections Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez. "Eligible inmates will now have the benefit of receiving sentence credit appropriately and responsibly as the department continues to look for effective, safe and secure methods of managing state prisons."
SB 2621 is effective immediately.
Governor Quinn also signed additional laws to increase public safety and protect children from predators. Senate Bill 3579, sponsored by Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn), prohibits sex offenders from participating in holiday celebrations where minors are present, for example handing out candy on Halloween. The law goes into effect Jan. 1. Senate Bill 3809, sponsored by Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago) and Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville), enables park districts to have criminal background checks performed to determine whether a job applicant is a delinquent minor for committing certain offenses, such as sexual assault. The law goes into effect immediately.
Senate Bill 3258, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Scott Penny (D-Belleville), clarifies violations included in the Sex Offender Registry, and prevents arrest records for reckless driving from being sealed before the offender reaches the age of 25. The law goes into effect Jan. 1. House Bill 4590, sponsored by Rep. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) and Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), adds new information, such as known gang affiliations, to inmate record files housed at the Department of Corrections. The law is effective immediately.