Gov. Pritzker Signs Criminal Justice Reform Bill
Gov. JB Pritzker signed a criminal justice omnibus bill backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Monday, abolishing cash bail, overhauling police certification and reforming use-of-force standards among numerous other provisions.
Pritzker signed the legislation, House Bill 3653, referred to as the “Safe-T Act”, during an event at Chicago State University alongside members of his administration and lawmakers from the Black Caucus.
“This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation, and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice,” Pritzker said.
While the legislation enjoyed grassroots support from activists, buoyed by the growing national concern over policing following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year, the bill faced strong opposition from Republican lawmakers and law enforcement groups.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, called the signing “an insult to our first responders.”
“We live in a civilized state where our elected officials’ greatest responsibility is the health and safety of Illinois citizens… At a crucial time when we should coalesce around the good men and women of law enforcement, Gov. Pritzker has turned his back on them with his signature on House Bill 3653,” Durkin said in a statement released Monday.
Opponents of the legislation have said it will result in a less safe Illinois and have criticized the process behind its development as lacking in transparency without proper input from Republican lawmakers and the public at large.
Proponents say HB 3653 will make Illinois safer by making the justice system more equitable for Black, Latino, low-income and minority communities that have been disproportionately harmed by disparate policies in sentencing, incarceration and policing.
Members of the Black Caucus have countered claims against the bill’s transparency by pointing to nine subject matter hearings held by the caucus in state Senate committees between September and November. For nearly 30 hours, lawmakers from both parties, law enforcement, judges, state’s attorneys, legal experts, representatives of the court, the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office hashed out many of the issues that became provisions in the bill, such as the abolition of cash bail by 2023 and police certification.
The office of the governor and Attorney General Kwame Raoul held working meetings over several months starting in July with representatives from both chambers and parties, Fraternal Order of Police groups, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association
The actual written legislation was introduced in the General Assembly during the five-day lame duck session in January when lawmakers attempted to pass a year’s worth of laws in a legislative blitz following the disruption of the regular session by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The final version of the bill was introduced after midnight on the final day of the lame-duck session, when it received just enough votes to pass both chambers with less-than-an-hour of floor-debate.
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