*** UPDATE *** From US Sen. Mark Kirk…
[ *** End Of Update *** ]
“As Senator for Illinois, I am working with some of the most conservative and liberal voices to do what is right. We are spending about $60,000 per prisoner every year in Illinois to incarcerate individuals who leave prison more dangerous than when they arrived - everyone knows this system is broken. Here at home, we cannot allow another generation of kids to be plagued by gang violence, so the new criminal justice reform bill directs more attention to fight gangs of national significance in Chicagoland.”
* Press release…
A new poll released today by the U.S. Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan organization working on criminal justice reform, shows that registered Illinois voters overwhelmingly support reforms that would fix the state’s criminal justice system. Voters strongly believe that, as a result of mandatory minimum practices, Illinois’ current system imprisons too many people for too long and that judges should have greater discretion in determining sentences. The poll, conducted by Fako Research & Strategies, revealed strong support for reform among Republican and Democratic voters, in addition to bipartisan agreement that the goal of our criminal justice system should be rehabilitation.
“This poll reveals a mandate for criminal justice reform in Illinois,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the U.S. Justice Action Network. “The prison population has exploded over the last few decades, and yet we aren’t seeing the public safety return that we deserve. So it’s no surprise that an overwhelming number of voters from the far left to the far right support policies that would reduce prison sentences for low-risk, non-violent offenses and offer more rehabilitation programs for those leaving incarceration. In light of this polling data, we urge lawmakers to take action to support these needed changes to our broken system.”
Among the poll’s top findings include:
* 94% of Illinois voters agree that the justice system should offer more rehabilitation and job training for individuals convicted of low-level, non-violent offenses so that when they re-enter society, they can get jobs, turn away from crime, and get off the taxpayers’ dime.
* 92% of Illinois voters – including 92% of Democrats, 96% of Republicans and 93% of Independents – favor reducing prison time for individuals convicted of low-risk, non-violent offenses in Illinois prisons. They support reinvesting some of those savings to create a stronger probation and parole system that holds offenders accountable for their crimes.
* 87% of Illinois voters– including 89% of Democrats, 91% of Republicans and 86% of Independents – would support replacing mandatory minimum sentences with sentencing ranges so that judges can weigh the individual circumstances of each case, such as seriousness of the offense and the offender’s criminal history, when determining the penalty.
* 83% of Illinois voters – including 82% of Democrats, 88% of Republicans and 82% of Independents – support sending fewer individuals who commit low-risk, non-violent offenses to Illinois prisons so that state funding can be used to keep violent criminals in prison for their full sentence.
* 85% of Illinois voters support spending some of the money Illinois is spending on locking up non-violent offenders should be shifted to strengthening mandatory community supervision programs like probation and parole.
* 90% of Illinois voters – including 92% of Democrats, 90% of Republicans and 92% of Independents – agree that we should break down barriers for ex-offenders so they can get jobs, support their families, and stop being dependent on government services that cost Illinois taxpayers money.
“Criminal justice reform is an issue where Illinois voters recognize the problem that we spend too much tax money keeping non-violent criminals behind bars. Voters also strongly agree that the main goal of our criminal justice system should be rehabilitation,” said Dave Fako, of polling firm Fako Research Strategies.
This poll comes at a time when Illinois is weighing up significant changes to their justice system through recommendations from the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. With U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin leading the charge on federal reforms, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk recently announcing his support, and Gov. Rauner looking to cut the prison population by 25 percent, Illinois is emerging as a leader on justice reform.
“The results of this poll affirm what Gov. Rauner believed when he within the first days of his election worked with Sen. Raoul and others to create the commission,” said Rodger Heaton, Illinois Director of Public Safety, Chair of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. “This poll and its results will go a long way towards helping the Commissioners consider even more challenging reforms to our system and to stop what we think has been an over reliance on incarceration.”
“Illinois residents clearly recognize we need to rethink and rework who we put behind bars and why,” said State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13th). “Our current system has devastated our communities and not improved public safety. We should pass reforms that ensure our system provides hope and redirection for low-level offenders who do not need to be imprisoned or who should not return once they are released, and to ensure the violent, dangerous criminals are locked away where they cannot continue to wreak havoc on our streets.”
“This poll reinforces the ACLU’s own polling numbers – the public is ready for leaders to take bold steps to safely reduce our prison population and support programs that reduce the number of individuals who return to prison,” said Ben Ruddell, Criminal Justice Policy Attorney, ACLU of Illinois. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Justice Action Network and other bipartisan advocates to advance proposals that will keep us safe and refocuses our justice system on rehabilitation.”
“Illinois spent $1.4 billion in taxpayer money last year but this poll shows that voters realize their justice system is not spending this money wisely,” said Derek Cohen, Deputy Director, Right on Crime. “Voters in the state are urging lawmakers to pass policies that create alternatives to incarceration which are more cost effective and provide better results.”
This is a Fako & Associates poll, so it’s trustworthy.
* A few other noteworthy items I picked from the pollster’s memo…
Reform marijuana laws so that those who possess or use marijuana are provided alternatives to incarceration such as probation and treatment options. (83% Total Support, 62% Strongly Support)
People convicted of possessing a small amount of drugs shouldn’t automatically go to prison, but have the chance at participating in probation and drug treatment. (87% Agree, 69% Strongly Agree)
One‐quarter (26%) of voters believe the Illinois criminal justice system needs “A Complete Overhaul.” One‐third of voters (33%) believe that the Illinois criminal justice system needs “Major Reform” while another quarter of the electorate (26%) feels the system needs “Minor Reform.” One‐tenth of voters (9%) feel that the Illinois criminal justice system is “Working Pretty Well As It Is.”
Respondents were asked which of the following two statements came closest to their point of view regarding prison sentences
Illinois has some of the most overcrowded prisons in the country and that our system needs to be reformed. Other states have created more effective, less expensive alternatives to prison for non‐violent offenders, and Illinois should consider making those changes to our system to save money and lower our crime rate.
People who commit any crime belong behind bars, end of story. It may cost a lot of money to run prisons, but it would cost society more in the long run if more criminals were out on the street.
A solid majority (70%) of Illinois voters agree with the first statement that Illinois prisons are overcrowded, requiring reform for non‐violent offenders. Less than a quarter (22%) of voters agree more closely with the second statement that all criminals should be behind bars, end of story.
Likewise, a strong majority of Democrats (72%), Independents (76%), and Republicans (63%) indicate that their opinion comes closes to the first statement, that Illinois prisons are overcrowded.
* Mitchell: Removing stain of arrest a step toward justice reform: And Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart — who put a national spotlight on the injustice of warehousing mentally ill offenders in the Cook County Jail — now is backing a bill to remove a provision of the law blocking anyone with a previous conviction from applying for an expungement… The bill now in Springfield doesn’t allow ex-offenders to erase a conviction. What it does, though, is waive the $120 fee required to apply for an expungement for those who have been released from jail, with the charges against them dropped… Though the expungement bill made it out of committee, supporters are getting pushback from the Illinois State Police and the Clerk of the Circuit Court. These agencies share revenue from expungement applications.
* Editorial: Government shouldn’t seize assets without greater proof of crime