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State of the State is about the effectiveness and culture of Illinois government. Written by Brian Mackey, the blog focuses on key areas of news important to Illinois such as criminal justice and labor.

Sentencing Commission Sets Ambitious Goal

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey
WUIS/Illinois Issues

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."

David Olson
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues
WUIS/Illinois Issues
David Olson

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.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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