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.
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.
“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.”
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