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While Rauner Touts Justice Bills, Police Warn Of Budget Fallout

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey
Gov. Bruce Rauner, flanked by lawmakers, touted the first pieces of legislation to come out of his push for criminal justice reform.

Even as Governor Bruce Rauner announced his first steps toward criminal justice reform Wednesday, a police group says the lack of a state budget is making Illinois a more dangerous place to live.

Rauner touted proposals that would begin to inch toward his goal of reducing Illinois’ prison population by 25 percent over the next decade.

“Today is an important, very positive step forward," Rauner said, flanked by a bipartisan group of legislators.

The bills Rauner is backing would let the state prison system release more inmates on electronic monitoring, require judges to explain their sentencing decisions, and make prisons and the Secretary of State supply newly freed inmates with state ID cards.

But elsewhere in the Capitol, law enforcement officials warned that the lack of a state budget means crime prevention programs are shutting down.

“I am upset at the governor," said Tom Weitzel, the police chief in Riverside, just west of Chicago. He and his colleagues say killing off programs that intervene with delinquent juveniles will result in higher crime rates for years to come.

“I’ve written the governor letters. I’ve called him. I met with his staff," Weitzel said of the governor. "I’ve met with my own state representatives. I met with them before I came to this press conference this morning. Is it going anywhere? No."

Rauner refuses to negotiate on a budget until Democrats make Illinois law more favorable to businesses.

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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