Plans released to cut prison population

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SPRINGFIELD-A commission convened by Governor Bruce Rauner to reform Illinois’ criminal justice system and sentencing rules released the first of its recommendations Wednesday morning.

Of those recommendations, three are being introduced as legislation in the General Assembly. One of those three would require judges to review pre-sentencing reports and to explain why incarceration is appropriate for offenders with no prior sentences. The second would expand the use of electronic home monitoring and the third would provide state identification cards so offenders can return to society more easily.

We're introducing these bills on a bipartisan basis right now,” Rauner said. “Another five of their recommendations our governor's office, our administration can actually implement through administrative action.”

Rauner did not immediately specify what those five recommendations were.

The Governor created the commission in February 2015 with the goal of reducing the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025, a move meant to improve individual lives and to save taxpayer money.

Commission members who spoke Wednesday said their work is an example of bipartisanship. Several referred to existing laws and regulations that are designed to be “tough on crime” but which have caused problems for individuals and communities.

“We’ve had a policy historically that, quite frankly, has been nonsensical policy driven by political fear,” said Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Democrat from Chicago.

“These are people in our families who face drug abuse problems, they face mental health challenges that cause them to end up in our criminal justice system,” said Sen. Karen McConnaughay, a Republican from West Dundee. “The policies and strategies that we’ve had in Illinois in the past have prevented those individuals from programs that allow them to deal with their core reason for ending up in the system.”

Less than an hour before the commission’s announcement, though, a group of police and prosecutors said at a press conference that the state budget crisis is hindering existing efforts to keep young people away from crime and out of prison. To find out what they had to say, click here.

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