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You don’t see this every day: Criminal justice reform bill passes Senate with bipartisan majority

Wednesday, Jan 11, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Senate President Don Harmon had this to say yesterday during floor debate

I did not expect to be calling House Bill 1064. I worried that, like Senator Cunningham’s bill before, this might have been a straw too many to bear. But I changed my mind. And before I present the substance of the bill, I want to tell you why.

This is a case of tenacious advocacy, not by high-paid lawyers, but by citizens who came and shared their stories with all of us. Not just ordinary citizens, in this case, it is primarily on men who spent decades in jail without any hope. They spoke to you all, you asked me to call the bill. It was members of the Democratic caucus and, to my delight, it was members of the Republican caucus. So we hz d the chance to advance a substantive bill on criminal reform with bipartisan support.

At its core, this bill does one very simple thing. For young people, those under 21 when they committed the offense who are sentenced to life in prison, it provides them the hope, the possibility of parole, after serving 40 years of their sentence. It’s a little glimmer of hope. It’s a bit of grace. It’s a little mercy. And I’m delighted to have support from both sides of the aisle.

The advocates did an enormous amount of work and they went to Harmon and assured him it would pass with support from both sides of the aisle if he put it up on the big board. They were right.

* Press release…

In a bipartisan vote on Tuesday, January 10, the Illinois Senate passed House Bill 1064, which would ensure most people sentenced before age 21 can seek a limited parole review. The House approved the measure in April 2022. Restore Justice calls on Governor JB Pritzker to sign HB 1064 into law.

“HB 1064 recognizes that children should be treated differently than adults. In Illinois, we care about our young people, and we know that children have the greatest capacity for change. HB 1064 gives those who would otherwise have no hope of returning to their families a chance to show who they have become,” said Julie Anderson, Restore Justice’s Outreach Director. Anderson’s son originally received a life without parole sentence for a crime that happened when he was just 15. He has since been resentenced because of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

HB 1064 passed with bipartisan support in each chamber; in the House, Representatives Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) and Seth Lewis (R-Bartlett) championed the measure. Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) moved the measure through his chamber; President Harmon has long been committed to addressing extreme sentencing of young people. He sponsored House Bill 531 (now Public Act 100-1182), the Youthful Parole Law, which Governor Pritzker signed into law in 2019.

“It’s a sliver of hope for an otherwise condemned person under 21 who maybe, just maybe, might redeem themself decades down the road and warrant consideration for a second chance at society,” President Harmon said.

Senator Donald DeWitte (R-St. Charles) spoke forcefully in favor of redemption during the floor discussion about the bill; we are grateful for his leadership, compassion, and belief in the ability of children to rehabilitate themselves.

“I consider myself a law-and-order Republican, but I also believe in rehabilitation. I believe there are some people who make extremely poor decisions in the very early portions of their lives who deserve consideration once they have met benchmarks and shown they are prepared to become contributing citizens after they have served their debt to society. For these people, we need to offer them hope and let them know we recognize that people can redeem themselves,” Senator DeWitte said.

* Restore Justice Foundation and Restore Justice Illinois…

Here is what HB 1064 will do:

    • Youth 20 and younger sentenced to natural life and/or convicted of killing a peace officer could petition for a parole review after serving at least 40 years.
    • Youth convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child are excluded under this bill.

The 2019 Youthful Parole Law established:

    • Most children and emerging adults (under age 21) given long terms of incarceration would have the opportunity to go before the Prisoner Review Board after 10 years and would then be allowed to seek parole two more times—unless they’ve been convicted of one of a handful of crimes (exceptions outlined below).
    • Youth convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault and most forms of first-degree murder would be eligible for parole after 20 years and once more after another 10 years.

* Sen. Don Dewitte (R-St. Charles) had this to say about the bill during debate yesterday

I had an opportunity to discuss this legislation with members of my caucus this afternoon. And I closed our conversation with a question that I’ve asked them to all consider. I consider myself a law and order Republican. But I do also believe in rehabilitation. And I believe there are some people, some people who make extremely poor decisions in the very early portions of their lives, that they deserve consideration once they show they are prepared to make the effort to become contributing citizens once they have served their debt to society.

So I would ask this question of all of you in the room tonight: If you believe our law and order system is based on the fact that significant sentences, people should be locked up and the key should just be thrown away, then vote against it. But if you believe that, given guidelines and benchmarks, that these convicted young people can reach to prove that they can become contributing members of our society, then don’t just vote your conscience, vote your Christian conscience. Vote that people can redeem themselves. I intend to support this legislation, and I would urge my colleagues to simply consider the same position.

Dewitte brought some folks with him on the vote. The bill has now passed both chambers and will be sent to the governor.


  1. - charles in charge - Wednesday, Jan 11, 23 @ 3:34 pm:

    Pretty depressing that several SDems from safe D districts, including 2 lame ducks, took a walk or voted NO on this common-sense bipartisan bill.

  2. - low level - Wednesday, Jan 11, 23 @ 5:34 pm:

    Once again, Darren Bailey lead by example to show what a great Christian he is… not

  3. - historic66 - Wednesday, Jan 11, 23 @ 8:44 pm:

    Did Bailey ever vote yes on any bill during his tenure in the GA?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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