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Mothers And Caregivers Could Spend Less Time Imprisoned Under Illinois Proposal

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Illinois lawmakers want judges to consider people’s family obligations when sentencing or detaining them for a crime.

Legislation being considered in the Illinois Senate would add parenthood and caregiving to the list of mitigating factors at sentencing. That could mean reduced charges or less time in custody — primarily for mothers.

Gail Smith led the group Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, which is now part of Cabrini Green Legal Aid. She said existing sentencing laws are not compassionate enough.

“We’re not looking at the excessiveness of the hardship for people who are being convicted of very minor offenses and separated from their children for an average — for class 3 and 4 felonies — of two and a half years,” Smith said. “When you’re a little kid, that’s a long time to be without your parent.”

More than half of the women currently in Illinois prisons were convicted of property and drug crimes.

Smith said having an incarcerated parent has health consequences for kids, including developmental difficulties and depression.

The proposal would also cover people caring for elderly and ill relatives. The House approved the measure in early April. 

The legislation is House Bill 2444.

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