Projects: Sentencing and Corrections Reform in Illinois

With funding from the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, staff from the Center on Sentencing & Corrections (CSC) worked with a Chicago-based nonprofit, Chicago Metropolis 2020 (CM2020), and the independent, bipartisan Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform (CLEAR) Commission, to improve criminal justice policies in Illinois. 

CM2020 developed the CLEAR Commission to review sentencing practices and recommend changes to the state’s criminal code and code of corrections. CSC staff have been providing the commission and CM2020 with technical assistance and research support since 2005. Highlights of the project’s activities include:

Implementing the Crime Reduction Act of 2009
In August 2009, Governor Patrick Quinn signed the Illinois Crime Reduction Act (Public Act 96-0761), which Center staff worked with CM2020 and Illinois officials to draft. The Illinois Crime Reduction Act puts into practice, effective January 1, 2010, many of the evidence-based principles that have proved successful in other jurisdictions. Its Risk, Assets and Needs Assessment Task Force designed a statewide, automated assessment instrument. The Adult Redeploy Oversight Board oversees the implementation of Adult Redeploy, an initiative to support local communities in treating offenders and reducing the numbers of people sent to prison. The act also requires that correctional and supervision officers receive training and development to support evidence-based practices. CSC staff provided technical assistance to the Task Force and Oversight Board through 2010.

Developing a Sentencing Policy Advisory Council
Center staff helped the CLEAR Commission and Illinois officials draft a bill authorizing the establishment of a state sentencing policy advisory council. The bill, which Governor Quinn signed in the summer of 2009 (Public Act 96-0711), requires the state to collect and analyze data from local criminal justice agencies and provide policymakers with the information they need to make sound planning decisions. CSC staff provided technical assistance to the council through 2010.

Why Work on Sentencing Reform?
Over the past three decades, the United States has experienced a sixfold increase in its prison population. Research shows that this growth has been driven not by an increase in crime, but by policies that have sent more people to prison and for longer sentences. These policies, often enacted incrementally in response to high-profile crimes and in the belief that longer sentences will deter future criminal behavior, have led to significant prison overcrowding. As in many other states, officials in Illinois recognize the need to analyze available data about their corrections population to better understand the impact sentencing policies have on the corrections system and local communities. 

For more information about CSC's work in Illinois, contact Alison Shames.

Featured Expert

Former Associate Director, Center on Sentencing and Corrections