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More progress as bills signed into law

Wednesday, Aug 26, 2015

* Aside from the governor’s truly bone-headed, short-sighted and overly bean-counting veto of Medicaid funding for heroin treatment, this has been a tremendous year for criminal justice reform.

Yes, I know, we’ve talked about it several times before, but the signatures keep coming

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has been on a crusade this year to keep some accused shoplifters and trespassers from having extended stays behind bars before trial.

Dart recently notched a bipartisan victory in that campaign when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the so-called “Rocket Docket” bill into law.

Rep. Mike Zalewski and Sen. Bill Cunningham, both Democrats, were the primary sponsors of the bill envisioned by Dart. Zalewski is from west suburban Riverside and Cunningham is from Chicago.

Rauner signed the bill late Friday, according to Dart’s office. It passed unanimously in the Senate and by a margin of 71-36 in the House.

“This is a good first step to rethinking how our criminal justice system works to punish and correct unlawful behavior,” Zalewski said.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has supported the measure. So has Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, who visited the jail in July.

* And

Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation allowing immunity from prosecution to minors who call 911 to get help.

Rauner on Monday signed the bill sponsored by Legislative Democrats, Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood and Sen. Heather Steans. It provides legal protection for a person needing medical help and the person who called for him or her.

Police would have the authority to determine whether protection from legal discipline is appropriate.

The plan is modeled after a similar one addressing heroin overdoses. At least two dozen other states have similar laws.

* And

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) on Monday signed into law a sweeping reform of the state’s school discipline policies, putting Illinois at the forefront of the nationwide push to make school discipline less exclusionary and more effective.

Senate Bill 100 eliminates automatic “zero tolerance” suspensions and expulsions, and requires that schools exhaust all other means of intervention before expelling students or suspending them for more than three days. The bill also prohibits fines and fees for misbehavior, and requires schools to communicate with parents about why certain disciplinary measures are being used.

Under the new law, which goes into effect in September of 2016, students returning from suspension will be allowed to make up the school work they missed, and students suspended for more than four days will be offered access to support services, like academic counseling and mental health professionals. […]

According to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Illinois has one of the widest disparities in the nation between suspended black students and their white classmates. During the 2012-13 school year, Chicago Public Schools issued suspensions for 32 of every 100 black students, compared to just five of every 100 white students.

* Related…

* Black & White: Middle Schools Discipline With BIST Intentions

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:03 pm:

    These now signed laws are sweeping and all involved should be congratulated for really moving forward with significant changes and reforms in the justice system in Illinois.

    The Governor should be applauded for his leaddrship and making a priority these issues and how to address them.

    Could you even imagine… if the state had a budget and labor peace… the public impact these signings could have had? A shame that these accomplishments can’t have much more sunshine.

  2. - OneMan - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:06 pm:

    Good stuff

  3. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:10 pm:

    This is all good common sense stuff. Good on law enforcement, GA and Gov. Rauner.

  4. - LIberty - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:10 pm:

    Ever been a teacher? The problem students have problem parents and nothing the state legislature dictates will change that.

  5. - RNUG - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:11 pm:

    With Illinois’ track record, Rauner should want criminal justice reform. After all, 2 of the 3 previous Governors ended up in jail!


  6. - RNUG - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:12 pm:

    Seriously, these are all good, common sense reforms.

  7. - MurMan - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:15 pm:

    It would be interesting to see the discipline number’s broken by socio-economic demographics as opposed to race. There could be some structural racism influencing the disparity between black and white suspension rates and BIST rates, but my guy tells me it’s more closely related to poverty levels.

    My mother recently retired from her job as a Special Ed teacher in Northwest Suburbs, and according to her the most troublesome students she had came from troublesom, less affluent home environments.

  8. - MurMan - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:16 pm:

    My gut, not my guy

  9. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:17 pm:

    ==- LIberty - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:10 pm:==

    Then maybe you should pay for all the harshness and incarceration you presumably want–which doesn’t work anyway.

  10. - What? - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:18 pm:

    There’s nothing “bone headed” about the governor’s veto of the Medicaid heroin expansion. Medicaid costs in IL are out of control. Rather than adding more costs to the system it needs to be reformed into an HMO-styled system like other states did over a decade ago.

    Good stuff on these bills, though

  11. - Homer J. Quinn - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:21 pm:

    “Police would have the authority to determine whether protection from legal discipline is appropriate.”

    if it’s still up to police discretion, how does this law protect anyone?

  12. - Strangerthings - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:22 pm:

    I am really glad to see a governor and a GA taking real action on getting reforms enacted in the justice system. I would however agree with the comment that it’s often the parents or lack thereof that leads to discipline issues.

  13. - Hamlet's Ghost - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:23 pm:

    Do these changes apply equally to charter schools and public schools? If yes, three cheers. If no, two cheers.

    . . . a sweeping reform of the state’s school discipline policies . . .

  14. - Lou Lang - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:23 pm:

    To What?:

    Providing those on medicaid who are drug addicted with treatment and medication will SAVE the state money. There are huge savings in ER costs to the system, as well as the court system and enormous savings to the correctional system. It costs $35,000 a year to house an inmate, only $1000 a month to treat addiction. This bill did not ADD to the medicaid burden we face, it REDUCED it.

  15. - walker - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:27 pm:

    Is the decades-long tide of “we’re tough on crime” finally started flowing the other way?

    Thank God. About time!

  16. - The Way I See It - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:27 pm:

    I’ve always felt that zero tolerance policies had zero intelligence. Good riddance.

    Are charter schools exempt from the no fines law? Recall a Tribune piece on the money they were racking up from school discipline. Revenue rsising in the name of law enforcement (e.g. red light cameras) is odious, doing it w/ school discipline doubly so.

  17. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:29 pm:

    I’d like to thank Speaker Madigan and the lawmakers he controls for sending this to my desk.
    That’s not the right script.
    Where CK?!

  18. - LIberty - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:30 pm:

    Precinct Captain- You presume wrong. The legislature needs to leave discipline to teachers, principles and school boards and stop their failed social engineering.

  19. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:33 pm:

    ==The legislature needs to leave discipline to teachers, principles and school boards==

    If those teachers, principles and school boards had common sense then they could have left it to them. I’ve read and hard about all kinds of goofy decisions made by schools in the name of “zero tolerance.” If those people would stop and use their brain for 5 seconds they would realize that some of the punishments they hand out are asinine.

  20. - T.T. - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:42 pm:

    Rauner should really be touting these criminal justice reforms with some sort of bill signing events.

    Wouldn’t a press conference outside of Cook County Jail with Tom Dart — who might be more of a political polar opposite to Rauner than anyone else in the state — help show the governor can work with his opponents across the political spectrum to solve tough problems? Which, in turn, would help Rauner paint Madigan as a partisan obstructionist much better than any thing else he’s thrown at him. Are his handlers that afraid of exposing him to the press?

  21. - LIberty - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:42 pm:

    Demoralized- those zero tolerance laws were dictated by the state legislature. Were you a teacher?

  22. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:44 pm:

    I hope the governor’s veto of Medicaid funding for heroin treatment was bone-headed. That can be excused, and fixed.

    If preventing poor sick junkies trying to kick from getting help was done to stick it to Lang, that cant be excused. That can’t even be described properly under the rules of the house.

    As the link provided by Rich notes, the vote in the House was 114-0 and in the Senate 46-6.

    Let’s all keep an eye on that override vote and see who the vertebrates are in the GOP caucuses.

  23. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:46 pm:


    What difference does it make if I am or am not a teacher? I don’t care who came up with them, zero tolerance rules are ignorant.

  24. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:13 pm:

    I enjoy hearing stories about students being suspended for chewing gum or violating the dress code.

    It starts with the teacher asking the student to spit out their gum and the student responds “F you b@tch.” The teacher tells the student to go to the office and the students tells the teacher that they don’t have to do what the teacher says. The teacher calls for security to escort the “child” and the child punches the security guard.

    Then the parent complains to the school board that their baby was suspended for chewing gum.

  25. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:17 pm:

    “stories” being the key word in all of that.

  26. - AnonymousOne - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:18 pm:

    AMEN, Anonymous. What people don’t know………(but think they do)

  27. - Rasselas - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:21 pm:

    ‘Zero tolerance’ is not the problem. There are a lot of behaviors of which schools should show ‘zero tolerance’. Bringing weapons to school. Assaulting students or teachers.

    The actual problem is lockstep punishment. I.e., every offense having the exact same consequence. That is where school districts have done stupid things. And mostly it’s because they’re afraid of getting sued or criticized if two kids who are accused of the same offense are treated differently. Instead of explaining why the situations are different, they have just blindly handed out the same punishments. (And privacy laws often make it hard to explain, so they worry about explaining differential punishment.)

    For example, every kid who brings a knife to school should face a consequence. But the kid who brings a small tool that he forgot in his backpack along with his whittling should be treated differently than a kid who brought in a knife to go after someone who ’stole’ his girlfriend.

  28. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:10 pm:

    IMO, this bill touted by Gov. & Sheriff will have a minimal impact on Criminal Justice Rrefrom in CC. As stated, approx. 600 inmates, in the last 6 months, would be eligible for diversion by the court? Wow! What about the other 8,900 daily inmates and the other 1,000 more on EM in CC? How do we deal with them?

    This is more about grabbing headlines, than real criminal justice reform.

  29. - 3rd Party Needed - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:14 pm:

    I would like to hear JS Mill’s take on this from a school administrator’s perspective. I am guessing late August is a busy time for him.

  30. - the q - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:28 pm:

    As a former teachers aide in a school that worked with teens that had been kicked out of their home school I would like to say that Anon is absolutely correct. This entitled generation is that way because a good percentage of parents are convinced that their baby could have never done anything wrong so it must be the schools fault.

  31. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:48 pm:

    Rocket dockets sound great in theory. In practice, where are the additional resources to make that happen? If an overburdened court system is the reason people are being held too long, placing additional burdens without more resources means that something else somewhere else is going to get shorted.

  32. - sparky791 - Thursday, Aug 27, 15 @ 8:24 am:

    Anonymous hits nail on head!

    Since we are kind of on teaching.

    One thing I do want to applaud our governor and GA for is creating teaching jobs.

    In the last week I know of at least four very good teachers that have had enough. Going to private sector. Really sad. Type of teachers you cannot replace easily.

    People you are about to see a teacher shortage.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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