SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A package of landmark criminal justice and policing reforms led by state Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, have been approved by the House and Senate, making Illinois a leader in the effort to root out systemic racism and ensure justice and equality for all residents.
“It is no secret that there is a significant problem with the incarceration and criminalization of Black Americans, and this reckoning is long overdue,” Slaughter said. “This legislation is about confronting, addressing and dismantling the systemic racism that our criminal justice system is rooted in, and is inherent in our society. These critical reforms cannot wait. The time is now to create a criminal justice system that works for everyone.”
Slaughter passed House Bill 3653 this week to address the issues that exist within Illinois’ current criminal justice system that have historically put Black communities at greater risk for incarceration and police brutality. The legislation includes provisions for sentencing reform, improving prison practices and police accountability. Beginning at the height of social justice protests in 2020 and leading up to the passage of the monumental reform measures, Slaughter, who chairs the House Judiciary – Criminal Committee, conducted 12 hearings that included over 40 hours of testimony from over 90 witnesses. Witnesses included law enforcement agencies, state’s attorneys, domestic violence advocates, social justice advocates and other important stakeholders.
Key aspects of the bill include:
- Abolishing the cash bail system, which unfairly held non-violent offenders in jail simply because they can’t pay, and creating a smarter system that bases custody decisions on the risk an offender poses to the community, rather than their access to cash;
- Allowing courts to waive unduly harsh mandatory minimum sentences in the cases of non-violent offenders;
- Ending the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic and red-light camera tickets, which criminalized poverty by forcing those least able to pay to choose between breaking the law or falling further behind by not working;
- Ending the use of violent choke holds and creating a more practical definition of when deadly force can be used by an officer;
- Closing the loopholes in law that have prevented criminal and civil accountability in the most severe cases of officer-involved killings, including creating a task force to examine changes to qualified immunity rules and modifying collective bargaining practices to prevent agreements from shielding officers against accountability for disorderly conduct;
- Implementing statewide standards for regular mental health screenings for law enforcement officers;
- Ending prison gerrymandering to ensure that more resources are allocated to Black and Brown communities.
“It is time for Illinois to lead the way in implementing meaningful reforms that will lift up Black and Brown communities and pave the way for a more equal and just society,” Slaughter continued. “We must move from protest to progress, and these reforms are one of the first steps toward racial equality. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with my colleagues in the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to pass this legislation, and I look forward to continuing this critical work as we prepare for a new General Assembly.”