Raoul: New criminal justice reform laws build on data-driven, commonsense approaches

stock photoSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) lauded  the signing of several criminal justice reform measures he sponsored this year as part of a larger push for commonsense, data-driven approaches to law enforcement, sentencing, incarceration and the reintegration of ex-offenders.

“Illinois is again pushing forward as a pioneer of criminal justice reform – because it saves money, because it saves lives and communities and because it’s the right thing to do,” Raoul said. “These new laws on juvenile justice, expungement, access to licensed professions and sex offender registration policies will help bring the realities of criminal justice in line with its aims of genuine public safety and lasting rehabilitation.”

Two of the measures deal with juvenile justice. House Bill 6291 addresses the fact that Illinois is an outlier in requiring lengthy probation periods for youthful offenders; it reduces mandatory terms of probation and gives courts greater discretion to terminate or continue probation on a case-by-case basis. House Bill 5017 will help more individuals with juvenile records to have those records expunged as quickly as possible so as to improve their chances of finding employment or enrolling in educational programs.

House Bill 5973 opens up several licensed professions to some ex-offenders at the discretion of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Individuals who have committed misdemeanors and non-violent felonies unrelated to their chosen professions would be eligible to earn licenses to be barbers, roofers or funeral directors – and the department would be required to consider mitigating factors such as how long ago the crime occurred, the applicant’s age at the time and whether the offense would have any bearing on the person’s ability to do the job in question. In Illinois, 24 percent of the workforce must have a state-issued occupational or professional license in order to work, and current state law stipulates that the state either may or must deny 118 types of licenses to applicants with criminal records. Thirty-nine percent of Illinois adults have a criminal history that could exclude them from some jobs or licenses.

House Bill 5572 creates the Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Task Force to develop recommendations for sex offender policies that employ modern risk-assessment tools, taking into account the level of risk each offender poses to the public.

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