criminal justice

J.B. Pritzker
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

J.B. Pritzker is set to become the 43rd governor of Illinois on Monday. He won in part by promising to make college more affordable, improve the state’s finances, and reform the criminal justice system.

Statehouse editor Brian Mackey sat down with Pritzker over the weekend for a conversation focused on his policy agenda, the problems facing Illinois, and ethics in government.

State Week logo
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

After years of effort, a bipartisan coalition passed criminal justice reform legislation in Congress this week. Turns out the relationship between Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner played a role in keeping the legislation on track.

Lee V. Gaines

Knowing there were other transgender inmates in prisons in Illinois and across the country made Leila Lee feel as though she wasn’t alone. She said it also made her want to help people like herself when she was released from prison.

Stateville Correctional Center
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Governor Bruce Rauner has vetoed legislation intended to prevent wrongful convictions.

Photo illustration: sean hobson/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Simple, everyday tasks  – like ordering coffee, crossing the street, or getting gas – can be an obstacle, or an intimidating challenge for people recently released from prison. This is especially true for people who have spent many years behind bars.


CREDIT FLICKR USER / MICHAEL COGHLAN "PRISON BARS" (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The measure would make it easier for some in jail to vote. The proposal also aims to educate those that have been through the criminal system about their voting rights.  

Flickr/Meeshpants

If you’re under 21 and have been convicted of a crime, you might wind up serving time in the juvenile justice system instead of an adult jail. Illinois state lawmakers are considering a measure that would raise the system's age limit from 18 to no more than 20.

Screen capture of Prison Legal News newsletter
Prison Legal News

The publisher of a newsletter about the criminal justice system filed a lawsuit this week against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging that multiple state prisons barred inmates from receiving all or part of several publications.

Bob Daiber, state Sen. Daniel Biss, J.B. Pritzker, Tio Hardiman, and Chris Kennedy
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Five of the six Democrats running for governor were in Peoria over the Martin Luther King Day weekend. They were making largely similar cases to voters at a forum on criminal and economic justice.

flickr/sideonecincy

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed legislation intended to improve the fairness of Illinois courts. It should mean more people will be eligible for bail while awaiting trial.

Reps. Darlene Senger and Elaine Nekritz
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois criminal justice system has become increasingly reliant on fees. People convicted of crimes have become money makers for state and local government — paying for everything from prosecutors' offices to new police cars.

handgun
Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Senate on Thursday passed stricter gun legislation long sought by the Chicago Police.

Barbara Wheeler headshot
Illinois General Assembly

In a way, it's just one little box on a lengthy college application form. But for many would-be students, that box is more of a stop sign if the instructions say "check here if you have a criminal record." State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Republican from Crystal Lake, wants to change that. She sat down with our Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes to explain why.

Matt Jones, Peter Baroni, Jehan Gordon-Booth
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

As Chicago confronts an increasing murder rate, the Illinois legislature is trying to take on the root causes of violence in some of the state's most traumatized communities.

Illinois Issues: New Laws In 2017

Dec 29, 2016
General Assembly chamber
Matt Turner / flickr

Nearly 200 new laws go into effect in Illinois on January 1.   

The state still doesn’t have a budget. A stopgap spending plan, which was approved over the summer, will end on January 1, leaving social service agencies, institutions of higher education and others in the lurch.

But, in the past year, legislators did approve hundreds of pieces of legislation, which the governor signed. Nearly 200 laws will go into effect at the start of the new year — close to the number that went into effect at the start of each of the past three years.

Netflix / courtesy

In this critical time it’s necessary to understand both the historical and present analysis of our oppression. It is connected to this country's long history of police brutality, as well as its flawed legal system and the evils of mass incarceration within. There is an overall framework of anti-blackness and white supremacy that has been imbedded in the US since the colonization of African people.

Illinois Issues: Legislative Checklist

Sep 15, 2016
Chamber
Flickr user: Matt Turner

Gov. Bruce Rauner has taken action on hundreds of bills over the summer. He signed most of them into law, but he also made some high-profile vetoes. 

John Bradley soft on crime ad
screen capture / Friends of John Bradley

In an era of political gridlock, one of the few topics on which there's been hope of bipartisan cooperation is on the issues of crime and punishment.

Politicians have traditionally been averse to doing anything that could get them painted as being "soft on crime."

It's an easy attack, and one that's been frequently deployed in the past. But this year, criminal justice reform advocates are fighting back.

police tape
flickr/ Tony Webster

Peter Nickeas covers breaking news for the Chicago Tribune. He spent three years on the overnight shift and during that time went to the scenes of hundreds of shootings in the city.

Nickeas reflected on this time and the effect it’s had on his life in an essay for the September issue of Chicago Magazine, titled   “Three Years of Nights.”

Illinois Issues editor Jamey Dunn talked with Nickeas about the essay and his time as an overnight reporter covering crime in Chicago. 

NPR Illinois

Who should pay for the Illinois courts?

Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice / Kewanee

A program meant to rehabilitate juvenile offenders hasn’t seen state funding while Illinois has gone for almost a year without a budget. The program, called Redeploy Illinois, has had to make cutbacks, leaving more than 100 teens without services.

A recent report from the Associated Press found that some young people who lost access to the program have committed new violations, including a string of crimes in Rockford early this year. Illinois Issues editor Jamey Dunn talked with Associated Press reporter Sophia Tareen about her story. 

Dave Nakayama / Flickr (CC-by 2.0)

Soon after taking office, Gov. Bruce Rauner set a goal of  cutting Illinois' prison population by a quarter over the next decade. But the current budget crisis has cut off funding for programs that could be key to meeting his target.  

pumpkin pie
Jeff Hawkins / Flickr.com/hawkinsmultimedia

Gov. Bruce Rauner has lately been critical of efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying it’s not “what matters” in Illinois government. Our reporter has been closely following the governor’s overall efforts to improve Illinois’ criminal justice system, and was struck by Rauner’s comments on pot. So he decided to talk to someone who can explain how decriminalization fits into that broader effort.

John Hanlon, Illinois Innocence Project
Illinois Innocence Project

This year, the Illinois Innocence Project is making its 15th anniversary. In January, the program helped win freedom for Teshome Campbell. He had been convicted of murdering James Shepherd in Champaign back in 1997, and spent more than 18 years in prison.

Ben Woloszyn

About eight years ago, Rebecca Ginsburg established the Education Justice Project -- a program that provides prisoners at the Danville Correctional Center with upper level college courses, workshops and other educational services. Ginsburg is a professor of education policy at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and today, she’s making her second visit to the White House to participate in a roundtable discussion on criminal justice reform.

Harrison Chancy and Joseph Hurst
Illinois Department of Corrections

A Sangamon County judge has declined to give a group of Illinois prisoners a new parole hearing — at least for now.

The case has to do with a formal process for assessing how much of a risk certain prisoners pose. The Department of Corrections was supposed to have this risk-assessment tool in place by 2013. But three years later, it’s just now beginning to roll it out.

A pair of the state’s longest serving inmates have sued over the delays.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

A measure to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana passed the Illinois Senate Tuesday.

Brian Mackey/WUIS

 Gov. Bruce Rauner will give his second annual State of the State address at noon Wednesday. After a year of stalemate, he's expected to make some effort to bridge a bipartisan divide.

In the year since the governor first laid out his agenda for the state, none of it has passed. Rauner has been unequivocal. Despite Democrats' resistance, and pressure on groups demanding a budget, he's not dropping his controversial prescription for a so-called "turnaround."

"We're not going to back down on it, we're not going to give in on it," he said Monday.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner endorsed the work of his criminal justice commission Thursday. He also made an unusual statement on prisons.

Commissioners are still working to reach Rauner’s goal of reducing Illinois' inmate population by 12,000 men and women over the next decade. They have delivered their first set of recommendations, and Rauner told commissioners he was excited about the report, calling it "excellent."

"What I can guarantee you: I will work tirelessly to make sure this isn't just something that just gathers dust," he said. "I’m going to implement this."

Flickr user: Dean Hochman

Lawmakers return to Springfield with some new ideas, but the unfinished business of 2015 will likely overshadow other topics in the second year of the legislative session. 


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