Harper proposes measure to institute “Smarter Sentencing” in Illinois

Harper proposes measure to institute “Smarter Sentencing” in Illinois
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Harper proposes measure to institute “Smarter Sentencing” in Illinois

As part of her commitment to criminal justice reform, state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, is proposing a major overhaul of Illinois’ sentencing laws, easing reliance on unfair mandatory minimum sentences and providing judges with discretion to use alternative sentences.

“We’ve seen how a so-called ‘tough on crime’ approach to criminal justice takes a staggering toll on communities of color without making communities safer,” Harper said. “It’s time for a ‘smart on crime’ approach that recognizes that our prisons should be reserved for individuals who pose a threat to public safety, not those who are better served by rehabilitation and restorative justice.”

Harper introduced House Bill 1587, which creates new sentencing standards to lessen the state’s reliance on mandatory minimum sentences. The measure allows judges to sentence individuals to probation, conditional discharge, or other non-imprisonment forms of justice less than a mandatory minimum if an individual does not pose a risk to public safety. Courts must state on the record the reasoning for any such sentences and cannot apply this reform to sex offenses or violent crimes.

State Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago

State Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago

This sentencing reform does not apply to gun crimes unless a presentence investigation reveals that someone will not be a threat to public safety. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, states that have adopted similar reforms, such as Connecticut, Ohio and South Carolina, have seen crime rates—including rates of violent crime—drop over 20 percent.

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“Mandatory minimums bloat prisons, result in unjust sentences and do not make us safer,” Harper said. “Adopting smart sentencing reform will not only help make our responses to crime more just, it will make Illinois a safer place to live and work.”

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com.

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