(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill that makes changes to the criminal justice process.
State Rep. Justin Slaughter introduced House Bill 3512, which makes several criminal justice reforms including promoting the hiring and training for pretrial services in counties where they do not yet exist.
There are currently 53 circuits in Illinois that do not have pre-trial services available, state Rep. La Shawn Ford said this bill can help address that problem.
“We are addressing issues that we have seen to be a problem with pre-trial detainees,” Ford said. “It is as simple as making sure that people are granted their just due.”
The bill was met with debate from lawmakers in the House as Republicans disagreed with much of the bill. Republican State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi said legislation like this makes the state look bad.
“People who have been saying that Illinois is on the wrong track outnumber those who say it is on the right track by a margin of 2 to 1,” Mazzochi said. “Todays session epitomizes why.”
Another change would end the cash bail process by having prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys hold hearings to determine which people arrested should be detained and which people should be released pending trial.
Republican State Rep. Patrick Windhorst said this could lead to violent criminals being released.
“My concern is if we do not have another trailer bill to address those issues, come Jan. 1 of next year, people will be committing those serious felonies and essentially be released,” Windhorst said.
State Rep. La Shawn Ford said the most important thing should be a system that is fair to its people.
“The No. 1 thing is that we have a system in place that is fair and just,” Ford said. “We have a system that says if you are a pre-trial detainee, that you are innocent.”
The bill was passed by the House last week after a 67-42 vote, much of the debate was focused on detainee phone calls.
The legislation would provide a detainee with three phone calls within three hours of detainment and many Republican lawmakers said that people arrested for domestic violence or a sex crime would have the opportunity to contact their victims.
Mazzochi said that the police officers should be the focus of new legislation, rather than those who are detained.
“We did a bill that is going to decertify police officers and deny them due process,” Mazzochi said. “But boy, we’re going to make sure that criminals get at least three phone calls.”
House Bill 3512 also pushes back the starting date for the police decertification program to July 1st, 2022 to allow for more setup time, the rest of the legislation goes into effect immediately.