Pritzker signs criminal justice reform bill

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (Photo via Good Free Photos)

Illinois Gov. JB Priztker has signed a criminal justice reform bill that will phase out cash bail and require body cams on every police officer in the state.

The bill passed the General Assembly last month during the veto session. The Illinois Black Caucus was a major proponent of the bill and its passage was a major victory for the group.

According to a statement from the governor’s office, the new law will:

  • Move Illinois from a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth, to one that prioritizes public safety.
  • Divert low-level drug crimes into substance use programs and treatments.
  • Modernize sentencing laws and streamlines the victims’ compensation system.
  • Require more investments in officer training, mental health, and officer wellness.
  • Expand training opportunities for officers, requires health and wellness services for officers, and protects officers from unjust lawsuits based on their reasonable actions.
  • Set statewide standards on use of force, crowd control responses, de-escalation, and arrest techniques.
  • Require the use of body-worn cameras by police departments statewide.
  • Professionalize policing through the creation of a more robust certification system and lays out clear standards and processes for decertification.
  • Expand accountability across police departments by requiring the permanent retention of police misconduct records and removes the sworn affidavit requirement when filing police misconduct complaints.
  • Require police departments to develop plans to protect vulnerable people present during search warrant raids.
  • Eliminate license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees due to red light camera and traffic offenses.
  • End prison gerrymandering.
  • Expand services for crime victims.

“Black History is about monumental moments and movements that serve as catalysts for change. Today, with the signing of HB 3653, it is both,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. “I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for Governor Pritzker and members of the Illinois Black Caucus. They used their seats of power to effectuate change that will alter the trajectory of lives, families, and entire communities for generations to come.”

“These reforms should merely be the first steps we take to transform criminal justice in Illinois,” said State Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). “We must reimagine accountability. We must reimagine transparency. We must reimagine incarceration. These reforms are a beginning. This historic moment is the result of a monumental effort on the part of countless people, from those who testified during the 30 hours of public hearings on these issues, to those who have pushed for some of these reforms for years, and especially to the Illinoisans who signaled their support.”

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul also welcomed the new law.

“By signing this law, Governor Pritzker puts Illinois firmly on the path toward improved services for crime victims, comprehensive criminal justice reform and constitutional policing,” Raoul said. “I am proud of the continued work and collaboration between my office, law enforcement, advocates and legislators to enact meaningful new laws that will not only promote professionalism, increase transparency and restore the public’s trust in law enforcement, but also enhance services available to victims of crime.”

However, the bill also had opposition. It was opposed by every police union and organization in the state and the Illinois Republican Party has worked to make opposition to the law a central issue.

State GOP Chair Don Tracy said in a statement released on social media that the bill would undermine public safety.

“It’s no surprise that in a recent statewide pool of law enforcement, 66% of police officers now consider retiring early,” Tracy said. “Standing firmly behind the thin blue line, Illinois Republicans are appalled at the signing of this bill representing an all out attack on both public safety and the brave men and women who provided it.”

The ACLU of Illinois, who had previously pointed out widespread support for the law, was much happier, calling it an important first step.

“We are excited about the important changes to policing and our criminal justice system signed into law today by Governor Pritzker,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of ACLU of Illinois, in a statement. “Reforming criminal justice and demanding meaningful police accountability are critical priorities for communities and people that are most harmed by the broken policing and criminal legal systems.”

Equality Illinois applauded the signing on its Facebook page.