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Restore Justice educates policy-makers and engages advocates in promoting positive solutions.
When signed into law, SB 1976 will create a statewide point of contact for families visiting incarcerated loved ones. This point of contact will be tasked with receiving complaints, suggestions, and requests from visitors. Right now (before this bill becomes law), family members visiting incarcerated loved ones have little to no redress when they are denied access or treated unfairly. People in visiting rooms must rely on staff at a particular facility to address conflicts or concerns. These same staff members may be directly involved in the issue. SB 1976 would give families someone to call who can investigate complaints and attempt to resolve issues. Families often drive hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to visit loved ones; this is a huge win to ensure visits are successful.
When signed into law, HB 3587, SFA 5 will help guide a conversation about the need for retroactive sentencing reform, reform that helps people who are currently incarcerated. HB 3587 will create the Resentencing Task Force to study innovative ways to reduce Illinois’s prison population. The Task Force will consider ways for incarcerated people, state’s attorneys, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), and judges to file resentencing motions to allow someone who previously received a long sentence to be released. The Task Force will be made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, including criminal legal reform advocates. It will submit recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor’s Office by July 1, 2022.
HB 3653, SA 2 – now Public Act 101-0652 – is a comprehensive criminal legal system and policing bill. It includes a change to Illinois’s felony-murder law. Before this bill became law, Illinois had one of the broadest felony-murder laws in the country. Prosecutors charged people with deaths caused by third parties. If someone committed an underlying felony and a death occurred, they could be charged with first-degree murder and receive our state’s harshest punishment, between 20 years and life in prison. Now, under the 2021 law change, people can only be charged with felony murder if they or a co-defendant cause a death during the course of an underlying felony.
HB 531 – now Public Act 100-1182 – creates new parole opportunities for those under 21 coming into the system today with extreme sentences ahead of them—the first new opportunity for parole in this state since the practice was abolished in 1978. Individuals seeking review will have the right to an attorney and the Prisoner Review Board will be required to consider the hallmark features of youth and subsequent growth when making their determinations.
On Friday, August 3, 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB4741—which had previously been unanimously approved in both the House and the Senate—into law. Now Public Act 100-0677, the law increases the minimum number of visits each Illinois inmate allowed to 7 visits per month. It also requires that the Illinois Department of Corrections expand the number of unique contacts each inmate is allowed to have on their visiting list to 30 (up from 20) and requires that visitation lists be kept electronically.
On Friday, August 18, 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB 2989—which had previously been unanimously approved in both the House and the Senate—into law. Now Public Act 100-0142, the law ensures that individuals incarcerated in Illinois are not deprived in-person visits due to the availability of video visits. The law also mandates that the Illinois Department of Corrections publish the number of in-person visits each incarcerated person is entitled to per week and month, better explain identification requirements for visitors, and post daily any restrictions or denials of visitation for that day and the succeeding 5 calendar days. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Justin Slaughter (D – Chicago), will go into effect on January 1, 2018.
Restore Justice educated policy-makers on high phone rates in Illinois prisons, assisting the efforts of Representative Carol Ammons (D – Champaign) in her effort to pass HB 6200 during the 2016 legislative session. Now Public Act 099-0878, the law caps phone charges at 7 cents per minute, a reduction of almost 50 percent. Restore Justice participated in this effort to ease the financial burden of communications among families with loved ones prison.
Restore Justice Illinois was a strong proponent of this measure. The new law took effect on January 1, 2016.