A task force meant to overhaul Illinois’ criminal justice system is meeting for the first time Thursday in Springfield.
Gov. Bruce Rauner briefly addressed the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which he created last month by executive order, setting out an ambitious goal for emptying Illinois prisons.
“Hopefully we can achieve a 25 percent reduction in the prison population within the next 10 years. That’s the broad parameter that we’ve discussed," Rauner said. "We need a system that restores our citizens to productive lives."
Illinois’ prisons are significantly overcrowded, with some institutions at double the population they were designed to house. Observers have said Illinois prisons are so crowded, the state should address the problem itself, before a federal court forces the issue.
The governor's commission includes prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, politicians and academics, including David Olson, a professor of criminology at Loyola University Chicago.
Olson says given the high cost of prison, Illinoisans need to ask themselves if they’re using it on the right type of offender: “If we want to incarcerate someone because they’re a retail thief or they’re a drug abuser, is that really a good use of resources? Is that really who we want to incapacitate in an extremely expensive environment?"
The commission has a preliminary report due this summer and is supposed to make final recommendations by the end of the year.