sentencing

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.

A new report is trying to calculate a more realistic tally of what crime costs in Illinois.

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.

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.

A House committee Wednesday gave the nod to a measure that could lighten the sentence of a mentally ill criminal.

A judge can take a lot 16 different factors into consideration when meting out a sentence.

The legislation proposed by Chicago Democratic Rep. Pamela Reeves-Harris adds another one.

"The court may consider, in mitigation, information that at the time of the offense the defendant was suffering from a serious mental illness," she said.

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."

Chicago's million-dollar blocks
chicagosmilliondollarblocks.com

State of the State Podcast:
A New Way To Think About 'High-Crime' Neighborhoods

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Most experts say the governor’s target of a 25 percent reduction in the state's prison population can't be met by simply backing off the war on drugs. Instead, policymakers will have to look beyond the "nons” — nonviolent, nonserious and nonsexual offenders — and in so doing, challenge entrenched attitudes about crime and justice. 

Illinois could finally reckon with its dramatically overcrowded prisons in 2016.

The entire system is at 146 percent of the capacity it was designed to hold, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Some individual prisons — such as East Moline, Illinois River and Lincoln — are above 200 percent of the rated capacity.

Rodger Heaton
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

On episode 16 of the State of the State podcast, a commission working on an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system has approved its first set of recommendations.

Chad Kainz

The state may still be far from a budget deal, but the General Assembly was able to pass several criminal justice reforms in the spring legislative session.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois struggles with its prison population in part because of its political culture. For decade, policymakers enacted greater and greater penalties for lesser and lesser crimes.

Will Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has convened a new commission to reduce Illinois' prison population, have the political courage to follow through on recommendations that may well come back to bite him in future campaigns? Commission member and Loyola University criminologist David Olson joins me to talk about what it'll take.

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.

flickr/meeshpants

Xavier McElrath-Bey was arrested when he was 13 years old. The Chicagoan went to prison for first degree murder for a gang-related crime. He left prison on good behavior at the age of 27 with a college degree in hand.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie wants to make sentencing for minors more lenient. House Bill 2471 would prohibit judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. House Bill 2470 would allow minors to have their sentence reviewed after serving 15 years.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday named the men and women he's asked to assess crime and punishment in Illinois. The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform comprises 28 men and women, a significant number of whom are well known as advocates for a more rational approach to criminal justice — that is, basing sentencing decisions on what's most likely to rehabilitate an offender while also protecting the public.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner visited a state prison Wednesday. It’s the first time a sitting governor has done that in years.

Rauner says an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system a priority for his administration.

"The Department of Corrections is operating at more than 150 percent of its design capacity," Rauner says. "That is unsafe to both inmates and staff."

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Wednesday he would convene a commission to look at criminal justice policy.

State prisons in Illinois are at 150 percent of the capacity they were built to house. They also cost taxpayers $1.3 billion a year. And many inmates, once released, go on to commit more crimes. Rauner says that’s unacceptable.

"It is a vicious and costly cycle," Rauner says. "We need to make sure we are rehabilitating inmates, so they don’t commit crimes over and over again."

Dave Nakayama / Flickr (CC-by 2.0)

Illinois has a clear ambition for what it would like to do with members of its criminal class, and it’s right there in the name of the state agency set up to deal with them: the Department of Corrections. But there is a wide gap between ambition and practice. This is not to blame the department: politicians enacted the policies that have swelled the prison population, and politicians are largely responsible for the dire financial condition of the state that has squeezed agencies like the DOC.

Not long ago, attempts to raise criminal penalties in Illinois were met with a standing joke. All such legislation had to make it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, where by informal agreement, it could only advance if it satisfied the sole criterion of the Cullerton Rule. On April 20, 2005, Sen. Edward Maloney, a Democrat from Chicago, presented House Bill 2699, a bipartisan measure that sought to raise the penalties for identity theft.

Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

As a candidate for governor once again tries to make political hay over a prison early-release program, a group of state lawmakers met in Chicago Tuesday to consider drastic changes to Illinois’ criminal justice system.

Republican Bruce Rauner is trying to remind voters about a botched, secret early release program that dates to Gov. Pat Quinn’s first year in office.

Campaign ad: “Two-hundred thirty violent criminals, secretly released early by Pat Quinn.”

flickr/meeshpants

Not long ago, it seemed every time a different type of crime started making the news, members of the Illinois General Assembly would rush to increase the penalty for that offense. But today — with prisons stuffed beyond capacity and state finances ailing — lawmakers have begun taking a more deliberate approach. Brian Mackey reports on a criminal sentencing culture change in the Illinois General Assembly.