* Center Square…
A joint hearing of the Senate Criminal Law and Public Safety Committees on Tuesday took up the subject of drug sentencing reform.
The meeting was a subject-matter only hearing, meaning it was for informational purposes and no legislative remedies were proposed or voted upon.
Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union, called for the reduction of penalties for all drug offenses.
“Our recommendation is reforms for all drug offenses to take them down by at least one class, including reducing simple possession from a felony to a misdemeanor,” Ruddell said.
* Capitol News Illinois…
“While Black Illinoisans make up 14.5 percent of the state’s population, they make up 54.8 of those in prison and are imprisoned at 8.8 times the rate of whites, one of the worst disparities of any state,” [Ben Ruddell, director of criminal justice policy for the Illinois ACLU] said.
Isolated to drug crimes, the disparities are larger. Between 2016 and 2018, Black Illinoisans made up 69 percent of drug offenders admitted to the Illinois Department of Corrections, and 59 percent of strictly cannabis offenders.
Ruddell suggested three reforms to combat these disparities: reduction of all drug crimes by one class; reclassification of felony possession to a misdemeanor; and elimination of mandatory minimums and sentence enhancements. Lawmakers discussed the third point in a previous joint hearing. […]
[Wendell Robinson from Restore Justice Illinois] cited a Justice Policy Institute study of 200 elderly prisoners in Maryland who were jailed as juveniles and released as result of a ruling by the Maryland Supreme Court. The median age of the individuals was 64 and they had served 34 years on average. Over a 6-year period upon release, the group had a 3 percent recidivism rate. That was far lower than the national average of 43 percent of those released from prison being incarcerated again, according to a 2011 Pew research study.