Illinois lawmakers OK crime bill cleanup, plan ends bail

Dec 1, 2022, 3:59 PM | Updated: 11:13 pm
State Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, center, testifies before the Senate Executive Committee on Thu...

State Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, center, testifies before the Senate Executive Committee on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, on his legislation to clarify the SAFE-T Act, a sweeping criminal justice overhaul that notably eliminates cash bail. Accompanying Peters are co-sponsors Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, left, and Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign. The amendment to the law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023, adds a number of forcible felonies to the list of crimes which qualify a defendant for pretrial detention, but Republicans still have concerns about it. (AP Photo/John O'Connor)

(AP Photo/John O'Connor)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly approved followup clarifications of their watershed criminal justice overhaul Thursday, appeasing critics by adding numerous offenses to a list of crimes that qualify a defendant to remain jailed while awaiting trial.

Senate action followed by the House came on the final day of the Legislature’s fall session and exactly one month before the Jan. 1 effective date of the so-called SAFE-T Act. The act notably changes one fundamental tenet of state jurisprudence by eliminating the posting of a cash bond — a practice long used to ensure the accused appears at trial, but which critics says penalizes the poor.

The goal of the proposal, which still awaits the expected signature of a supportive Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, is to detain dangerous people while they await trial while not locking up those who pose no threat but sit in jail simply because they can’t afford bail, according to proponents.

In the Senate, sponsoring Sen. Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat, recalled that Atticus Finch, the color-blind defense attorney in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” said that courage is knowing “you’re licked before you begin … but you see it through.”

“We’re seeing it through no matter what,” Peters said. “Illinois on Jan. 1, 2023, will make history — civil rights history.”

Democrats easily put up the 3/5th majority vote required by the Constitution to make the plan effective immediately while Republicans could only mock them for having to return repeatedly to make corrections or clarifications.

Emerging after the Minneapolis police beating death of George Floyd in May 2020, the SAFE-T Act sets rigorous new training standards for law enforcement, spells out rules for police use of force in immobilizing troublesome suspects, requires body cameras on all police by 2025 and more.

Much of Thursday’s focus was on sweeping cash bail out the door, following a handful of states that prohibit or restrict it, including California, New Jersey, Nebraska, Indiana and New York.

“The General Assembly has upheld the principles we fought to protect, including bringing an end to a system where those charged with violent offenses can buy their way out of jail, while others who are poor and charged with nonviolent offenses wait in jail for trial,” Pritzker said in a statement.

But while Republicans agreed that adding crimes to what the law calls the “detention net” greatly improved matters, they remain worried about the risks of potentially releasing dangerous criminals. They also expressed concern about the short timeline for judges and prosecutors to prepare for the changes, and what they see as as the flight into retirement of law enforcement officers over objectionable parts of the act.

Sen. Steve McClure, a Springfield Republican and former prosecutor, acknowledged the improvements made by Peters and Democratic co-sponsors Sen. Elgie Sims of Chicago and Scott Bennett of Champaign. Among the changes, the clarifying legislation expands the detention net to include forcible felonies and those not eligible for probation, along with those accused of hate crimes and other serious offenses.

But like much of the debate since the SAFE-T Act was approved in the wee hours’ finish of a lame-duck session in January 2021, Thursday’s debate was largely over semantics — for instance, burglary.

Republicans said burglary should be included in the detention net, Democrats claimed it already is. During floor debate, Peters pointed out the page and line number, which includes “burglary where there is use of force against another person,” a redefinition of burglary, noted McClure.

“That’s robbery,” McClure replied. “If you go into somebody’s unattached garage, or a business or into somebody’s car, those are all regular burglaries where you’re not threatening the use of force on somebody else.”

Those suspected of such burglaries, when set free, have little reason not to commit another such offense, he said.

Republicans pounced on the repeated changes to the law despite Democrats’ claims that it was solid. Peters’ legislation marks the third so-called “trailer bill” designed to clean up misunderstandings in the past two years.

In the House, Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, a Republican from the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, took a shot at Chicago Democratic Rep. Justin Slaughter, who during debate in April on the plan he sponsored, complained of “the stench of racism coming from that side of the aisle,” identifying Republicans.

“We did object to taking bad utopian legislation that historically has never worked and saying that somehow our practical, common sense objections to legislative language that we knew was going to create problems … were based on racism was offensive,” Mazzochi said.

Another change sets up a timeline after New Year’s so that those incarcerated this month may request hearings to be eligible for the new process and perhaps be released. Priority is to be given to low-level nonviolent offenders.

___

The SAFE-T Act legislation is HB1095.

___

Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Authorities: Woman sent to Iowa funeral home was alive

A continuing care home in suburban Des Moines, Iowa, has been fined $10,000 after a funeral home discovered a woman sent to it in a body bag was still alive. The Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals said in a report filed Wednesday that the 66-year-old woman was declared dead at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Kohl’s names Tom Kingsbury as permanent CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Kohl’s said Thursday it has named acting CEO Tom Kingsbury as its permanent leader. Kingsbury, a Kohl’s board member with more than 40 years experience in retail, has served as an interim CEO since early December, when Michelle Gass left the department store chain to become president of jeans maker Levi […]
17 hours ago
CORRECTS THAT PLANTS ARE FORMERLY OWNED BY FIRSTENERGY -  Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Household...
Associated Press

‘Boom’: FirstEnergy exec text revels in landing state plane

CINCINNATI (AP) — New details emerged Thursday at the trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder on the use of the state plane scheduled to bring state lawmakers back to Columbus to vote on the now-tainted nuclear bailout legislation at the heart of Ohio’s largest ever corruption case. Text messages presented to jurors in […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Republican Gov. Tate Reeves outlines his priorities during his State of the State address on...
Associated Press

Doctor, GOP governor clash over private Medicaid discussion

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said in a private conversation that expanding Medicaid to people working low-wage jobs would be in the best interest of the state, but that he refuses to support the policy for political reasons, a former chancellor of the University of Mississippi said Thursday. Dr. Dan Jones […]
17 hours ago
FILE - This Wednesday, July 24, 2019 photo shows an Apple Store in Chicago is seen. Apple reports f...
Associated Press

Apple suffers 1st quarterly sales decline in nearly 4 years

Apple on Thursday posted its first quarterly revenue drop in nearly four years after pandemic-driven restrictions on its China factories curtailed sales of the latest iPhone during the holiday season. The company’s sales of $117 billion for the October-December period represented a 5% decline from the same time in the previous year, a deeper downturn […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Low water levels at Wahweap Bay at Lake Powell along the Upper Colorado River Basin are show...
Associated Press

Interior: $580M headed to 15 tribes to fulfill water rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fifteen Native American tribes will get a total of $580 million in federal money this year for water rights settlements, the Biden administration announced Thursday. The money will help carry out the agreements that define the tribes’ rights to water from rivers and other sources and pay for pipelines, pumping stations, and […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Illinois lawmakers OK crime bill cleanup, plan ends bail