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August 26, 2009

Illinois creates a new sentencing "advisory council"

As detailed in this press release, Illinois "Governor Pat Quinn on Tuesday signed a package of bills reducing the complexity and length of the Illinois Criminal Code and creating an advisory body to conduct comprehensive analyses of state sentencing laws and the impact sentencing changes would have on the criminal justice system." Here are more details:

The trio of bills is the most recent product of the Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform (CLEAR) Commission, which is composed of legislators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement representatives and other experts in the criminal justice system....

The CLEAR bills signed by Gov. Quinn include Senate Bill 1300 and Senate Bill 1325, which together rewrite about one-quarter of the Illinois Criminal Code.  The editing process removed redundancies, replaced unconstitutional sections, clarified ambiguities and reordered the statutes to make them more understandable to practitioners and the public.  The recommendations of the CLEAR Commission for the remainder of the criminal code rewrite will be addressed in upcoming sessions.  When finished, the Illinois Criminal Code is expected to be reduced in size by one-third.

The third bill, Senate Bill 1320, creates the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, an 18-member council to be housed in the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.  "This new council will help policy makers get a better understanding of the current criminal justice system and make recommendations to increase public safety and make the system more efficient and effective for everyone involved," said former Illinois Appellate Court Justice Gino L. DiVito, who co-chairs the CLEAR Commission.

"There is no shortage of ideas about how to change the system, but too often the impact of proposed changes is not well understood," said former Gov. James R. Thompson, co-chair of the CLEAR Commission.  "When policy changes are being debated, the public and their elected representatives now will have a place to go for solid, non-partisan information, including evaluation of changes in other states, prison population projections, and the latest research in the field."

Especially as California ties itself into knots debating the creation of a sentencing commission and badly needed prison reforms, it is refreshing to see news of another state able to move forward with ideas and institutions that ought to help improve and enhance rational criminal justice policymaking.

August 26, 2009 at 03:57 PM | Permalink


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This is good news except for the size of the council. It seems like the smaller US Commission, with 7 voting members, is much more efficient and able to respond quicker than some of the larger state bodies. Consensus on some issues with 18 people could be rough.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Aug 26, 2009 4:32:52 PM

The comparison to California is indeed informative. If Senator Steinberg and Speaker Bass had proposed an advisory commission such as this, it would have been enacted with little controversy.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Aug 26, 2009 5:29:46 PM

Whenever you hear about a new government commission, hold onto your wallet. These things are designed to create running room for irresponsible and thoughtless behavior by the legislature, and cover for all manner of bad ideas that can be ascribed to "experts," even though the "experts" often turn out to be the legislators' former staffers who are looking for a fat job with no particular accountability.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 26, 2009 5:46:05 PM

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