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Pritzker hails newly signed criminal justice reform bill as ‘substantial step’ in erasing ‘systemic racism’

Chicago Sun Times

Monday, February 22, 2021  |  Article  |  Rachel Hinton

The Democratic governor said the sweeping bill moves Illinois a step closer to “true safety, true fairness and true justice.” But Republicans called it “an insult to our first responders, law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens of Illinois.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice bill into law Monday, moving Illinois closer to ending cash bail and requiring police officers to wear body cameras — moves that critics say will hurt public safety.

 

But the Democratic governor said the sweeping bill moves Illinois a step closer to “true safety, true fairness and true justice.”

 

The criminal justice bill was crafted by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. It passed the General Assembly last month during the Legislature’s lame duck session.

 

Along with bringing about the end of cash bail in the state, the bill creates a statewide certification program for police officers; mandates three phone calls for detainees; allows for more judicial discretion in sentencing; and, in Cook County, assigns special prosecutors in cases where there are police-involved deaths.

 

Ahead of the signing, Pritzker said the bill “marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation” and brings the state closer to “true safety, true fairness and true justice.”

 

“Today, thanks to the hard work of so many people and those watching at home, we advance our values into law, progress secured despite the pandemic because of the passion and the push of the Legislative Black Caucus, activists, advocates and residents intent on leaving a better Illinois, for all of our children,” Pritzker said at a bill-signing ceremony at Chicago State University.

 

He also took aim at opponents of the law, saying they “don’t want any change, don’t believe there is injustice in the system and are preying upon fear of change to lie and fear monger in defense of the status quo.”

 

Some legislators and law enforcement groups urged Pritzker not to sign the bill, which they say will create “major public safety issues” for the state.

 

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who previously urged Pritzker not to sign the bill, said the governor’s decision to do so shows he’s “turned his back” on the “good men and women of law enforcement.”

 

“The governor’s support of House Bill 3653 is an insult to our first responders, law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens of Illinois who work to live free of violence and destruction from the criminal element,” the Western Springs Republican said in a statement.

 

“It’s clear that Gov. Pritzker does not understand this bill and what it means to our criminal justice system. Illinois and its citizens will not be safer because of this bill. ... 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.”

 

Sponsors of the bill have said complaints from law enforcement groups and Republicans are little more than “fear mongering.”

 

Crime survivors say parts of sweeping reform bill help reduce their trauma and allow them to ‘move on to the next stage in your life’

State Rep. Justin Slaughter, who helped steer the package through the House, previously told the Chicago Sun-Times there is time to collaborate with law enforcement on the implementation of the various parts of the bill.

 

The end of cash bail won’t go into effect until January 2023, and municipalities will be on a rolling compliance schedule to use body cameras with complete compliance by 2025, Slaughter said.

 

“In my opinion this is just the start of where we need to be with criminal justice reform,” Slaughter said. “We believe the provisions in the bill are sensible changes that need to be made.”