* From a press release…
Renewing his efforts to help Illinois get smart on crime, State Rep. Mike Zalewski has introduced a larger package of bills to address shortcomings in Illinois’ criminal laws from juvenile sentencing and theft to gun and drug crimes.
Zalewski, D-Riverside, fervently worked through a number of concerns about Senate Bill 1342, known as the mandatory minimum sentences bill for gun felonies. He won rare support for his changes from the National Rifle Association and gun-rights legislators but ultimately the bill remained in the House at the conclusion of the General Assembly’s veto session.
Since the session ended a month ago, Zalewski has worked through opponents’ concerns and developed this package of bills to take head on complaints that the mandatory minimum sentences approach would not address broader problems in Illinois’ penal system. The new bills would:
* Clarify that a factor for the charge of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon is if the person charged committed a crime as a juvenile that would draw a forcible felony charge if it had been committed as an adult, rather than any felony
* Increase the threshold for being charged with retail theft under state law from $300 to $500, with full repayment required to the merchant
* Increase the threshold for enhanced penalties from being charged with theft from $500 to $1,000
* Expand the possible use of electronic monitoring devices when suspects are released on bail or their own recognizance
* Require defendants to be released on their own recognizance when charged with possessing less than 1 gram of heroin or cocaine, or less than 10 grams of marijuana
“I’m still committed to seeing our state put the worst of the worst behind bars when they intend to commit serious crimes with guns,” Zalewski said. “But I also recognize we have to get smarter on crime, not just tougher. I’m hopeful these changes will spur a good discussion about how we can ease the burden on our swamped prison system while making sure that we’re putting those who need such serious punishment behind bars.”
The I-bonds for small possession is promising. Too many people are allowed to languish behind bars because they can’t make bail.