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AG Raoul blasts lawmakers for allowing his criminal enhancement penalty law to expire

Monday, Nov 20, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From my October 27th weekly newspaper column

Back in May 2017, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson traveled to Springfield and promised a House committee that passing a criminal penalty enhancement bill he favored would drastically reduce gun crimes in his city.

The bill, SB 1722, was sponsored by then-Sen. Kwame Raoul, who would run successfully for attorney general the following year. It sought to establish higher minimum prison terms for people convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon if they’d previously been convicted of various crimes. The bill would also increase penalties for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.

Johnson was asked by committee member then-Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, to estimate how many shootings, whether fatal or not, the legislature might prevent by passing the bill.

“I think over time, we will probably, we will cut it, cut it down in half, to half,” Johnson replied. […]

If you’re a sentient being, you know that Johnson’s confident prediction was wildly incorrect. Gun crimes did not plummet by 50 percent.

The law did lead to people being locked up longer, however. Research by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, an entity created by the General Assembly, showed that sentences rose after the law took effect in 2018.

“The mean sentence length for Aggravated UUW sentences with qualifying predicate convictions increased by about 5 months and the likelihood of a sentence of at least six years was about 3.2 times higher” than before the law took effect, the 2021 study found. And the average sentence length for UUW/felon sentences with predicate convictions, “increased by about 4 months and the likelihood of a sentence of at least seven years was about 2.5 times higher than before the effective date.”

As we’ve since discussed, the provision to extend the sunset was stripped out of the sunset omnibus bill and passed the Senate as a stand-alone which passed 42-12, with another three Democrats not voting. But Senators knew this wasn’t going anywhere else because the Senate’s vehicle was a House bill sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi, a progressive Democrat who predictably refused to move it forward.

* That brings us to this WAND TV story

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is disappointed that House Democratic lawmakers are allowing a 2018 criminal justice law to sunset at the end of this year. Raoul was the lead sponsor of the legislation that created new sentencing guidelines for repeat gun offenders. […]

“Someone who is a risk to public safety needs to be incapacitated at least for some period of time such that you protect the public and give that individual some time to rethink what they want to be engaged in,” Raoul told WAND News in an exclusive interview.

Raoul’s law also stated that people convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon several times could serve 6-7 years in jail. The Attorney General stressed that is is wrong to characterize the statute as a new mandatory minimum or penalty enhancement.

“That’s hogwash,” Raoul said. “I really encourage the members of the General Assembly, many of whom are my friends, to actually read the bill. Read the law. The law preserves judicial discretion.” […]

Guzzardi stressed that he would not allow House Bill 1440 to advance and blocked it from being called for a vote in the chamber. Raoul told WAND News that he was shocked to hear about this situation while he was working in Washington D.C.

“I somewhat blame myself. Had I anticipated that there would be this level of pushback on this, I would’ve had individual conversations with legislators to try and help explain it,” Raoul admitted. “I think a lot of people just had a misunderstanding of what the statute actually does.”

He wasn’t in DC the day that bill passed the Senate.

And he surely knew this was a problem, particularly in the House.

* Also, the Republicans claimed this was, indeed, a mandatory sentencing bill. Last week on that very same WAND TV

Guzzardi stressed that he would not allow House Bill 1440 to advance and blocked it from being called for a vote in the chamber.

Still, House Republicans said the extension deserved a vote to protect the public.

“We’re about to get rid of mandatory sentencing,” said Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva).

Your thoughts?

       

14 Comments
  1. - Springfield Watcher - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 1:07 pm:

    Why would the Attorney General lie? Just say you were vacationing in Fort Meyers, Florida while the legislature was in session. What about his leg team? What did they do to advocate for the bill?


  2. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 1:12 pm:

    I am old and should know better but it would be nice if legislators either read and understood bills they were commenting on or not mischaracterize what they know the bill really says


  3. - Excitable Boy - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 1:19 pm:

    - “I think a lot of people just had a misunderstanding of what the statute actually does.” -

    That may be the case, but can you provide any data showing that the law had any impact on reducing crime? If not it’s just an additional taxpayer burden with no tangible result.


  4. - Frumpy White Guy - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 1:30 pm:

    The bad guy is the boogie man strategy isn’t working. Putting someone in jail longer doesn’t solve the gun problems. How about more legislation that provides sufficient mental health services and support for disadvataged families.


  5. - Dotnonymous x - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 2:02 pm:

    The Second Amendment protects everyone…or no one.

    The felon exclusion is blatantly unconstitutional.


  6. - Dotnonymous x - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 2:17 pm:

    The law preserves judicial discretion?…when confidence in the judiciary is at an all time low…which these lawmaker’s don’t see?…from inside their insulated bubble?


  7. - Roman - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 2:31 pm:

    It’s not uncommon to have a debate on a proposal in which the proponents overhype the supposed benefit and the detractors exaggerate the alleged negative consequences. Such is the case with this law.


  8. - Stephanie Kollmann - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 2:47 pm:

    The FB link doesn’t work for me. Has it been taken down or is it friends-only?

    He wasn’t in DC?

    I don’t understand the point of his interview. So bizarre to continue to portray this upside-down 2-strikes sentencing enhancement (unprecedented in the criminal code as a presumptive maximum stacked on top of a mandatory minimum) as something other than it was: an experiment and a mistake happily ended.


  9. - Me. - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 2:57 pm:

    That may be the case, but can you provide any data showing that the law had any impact on reducing crime? If not it’s just an additional taxpayer burden with no tangible result.

    That’s not the question. The question is, “Did the judiciary make use of the “downward departure”? (what Senator Raoull called a “safety valve” at the time). The bill gave judges discretion to NOT use any of the “mandatorily sentences.” That was to be a watershed moment, for if it worked, maybe we could make mandatory 15-20-25 gun crime add ons, discretionary as well. (SA Alvarez of all people supported Making discretionary the 15-20-25 sentencing enhancements. All of my babble today this, we were all shortchanged by SPACs analysis. They indicated there was no way to determine that result based on “lack of data.” Maybe we can take them at their word, but Cook has used that “safety valve” repeated and regularly. It was a crucial bit of the act. So maybe Rep. Guzzardi can ask why that didn’t happen. (I’m kidding he doesn’t care why, because “sentencing enhancements.”


  10. - Free Market - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 3:03 pm:

    It would be really great if the world worked the way Will G wished it would. It doesn’t.


  11. - charles in charge - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 3:18 pm:

    ==That’s not the question.==

    Please explain why asking proponents to show evidence that this law ever produced the promised results is “not the question.” You want to focus only on the “safety valve,” but the only reason a safety valve was included in the first place is because of concerns about the impact of the underlying sentencing enhancement–concerns that have turned out to be well-founded. The burden should absolutely be on proponents of this law to show that it actually worked. That is 100% “the question.”


  12. - Dotnonymous x - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 3:47 pm:

    If it walks like an enhancement…yeah.


  13. - Stephanie Kollmann - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 3:57 pm:

    ==That was to be a watershed moment, for if it worked, maybe we could make mandatory 15-20-25 gun crime add ons, discretionary as well.==

    Great news, Me. We don’t need a new extreme penalty on gun possession in order to end IL’s extreme mandatory minimum add-ons to gun use.

    Instead, we can adjust the law so that judges are sentencing people based on actual culpability, harm, and efficacy, within broad categories of recommended ranges. As used to be standard before someone decided that pulling a trigger once needed to be punished with 25 more years of imprisonment than stabbing someone multiple times.


  14. - Excitable Boy - Monday, Nov 20, 23 @ 5:10 pm:

    - That’s not the question. -

    Whether or not laws have a measurable net positive effect on society is always “the question”.


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