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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article will discuss some of the significant changes coming out of Illinois' newly passed criminal justice reform bill. We will cover the following topics:


  • Prison Death Investigation and Reporting
  • Reform to the "One Phone Call" Rule Following Arrest
  • Victim Compensation Eligibility
  • Mandatory Supervised Release
  • Handling "Resisting Arrest" Arrests
  • The End of Cash Bail


On January 13th, state legislators approved a colossal 764-page police and criminal justice reform bill that includes major changes, such as ending the practice of cash bail and money bonds, requiring all officers across Illinois to wear body cameras, and easing restrictions placed on those convicted of lesser charges. Legislators designed the bill to address much more than Illinois' policing standards, but time will tell what kind of effect its changes will have at the community and state level.


Prison Death Investigation and Reporting?


The Illinois prison system is not known for its transparency regarding inmates and suspects' deaths in custody. Several investigative reports have found unorganized and incomplete record-keeping for inmate deaths. However, the new legislation could provide ample transparency and accountability for inmate and custody deaths. The bill requires the Illinois Department of Corrections, and any other agency involved in a death, to investigate and report all deaths that occur in custody. The deceased's family members must be promptly notified and given an accurate and detailed accounting of the cause of death.


Reform to the "One Phone Call" Rule Following Arrest


Most people are well aware of the "one phone call" rule depicted in popular media. Current Illinois state law mandates that an individual in custody has the right to one phone call in a "reasonable" amount of time. The ambiguity of "a reasonable amount of time" leads to many people sitting in custody for extended periods before getting their phone call or not getting the phone call at all. Because "a reasonable amount of time" is difficult to prosecute, it's almost impossible to hold violators accountable. The new bill would require that those taken into custody get three phone calls within three hours of arrest. Critics of the three phone call rule argue that it doesn't account for situations where the arrested is drunk or otherwise unable to coherently make a phone call and handle mass arrests, among other discrepancies. 


Victim Compensation Eligibility


Victims of crime, whether direct or tangential, can seek help through Illinois' victim compensation program, including payment for mental health treatment, unexpected medical costs, funeral costs, and missed work. However, barriers to eligibility under the program have made Illinois one of the worst states for victim compensation. 


The bill would expand eligibility from legal relatives to anyone who shared a residence with a murder victim. The bill also seeks to increase the maximum payment allowable for victims and families, loosen victim cooperation requirements, and extend the deadline to apply for compensation.


Mandatory Supervised Release


All Illinois inmates must currently complete a term of "mandatory supervised release" after they finish their prison sentence. While under supervision, the ex-inmate must report to a parole officer and follow specific rules or face reincarceration. The new legislation removes mandatory supervision for individuals convicted of class three and class four felonies. The state can still opt to have the ex-inmate serve a period of supervision, but the decision must be based on a review of the individual inmate. Former inmates currently under supervision may see their terms lessened. Proponents believe that the change will allow parole officers to spend more time helping ex-inmates reintegrate into society.


Handling "Resisting Arrest" Arrests


A common issue raised by police and criminal justice reform advocates is the practice of charging an individual with resisting arrest but nothing else. The new legislation aims to remove the ability for a person to be charged with resisting arrest unless there is an "underlying offense for which the person was initially subject to arrest." Illinois residents should understand that the new bill doesn't give them the right to assault, batter, or otherwise harm an officer if they believe the officer doesn't have just cause to arrest them. Advocates hope that the change will cut down on unjustified stops and arrests.


The End of Cash Bail


Possibly the most significant change found in the new bill is the abolition of cash bail across the state. Getting rid of cash bail means that nearly everyone arrested would be released from jail while awaiting trial. However, the new system still allows prosecutors to petition the judge to have the defendant remain in jail if they are a danger to the public or a threat to flee. The change would also mean that those required to stay in jail until their trial cannot buy their way out. The Illinois police and criminal justice system has two years to prepare before the current cash bail rule is fully dissolved.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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