Major Criminal Justice Rewrite Passes in Lame-Duck Session

Gov. J.B. Pritzker will soon have a number of new bills awaiting his signature after the condensed lame-duck session that ended last week. One of the most controversial bills that moved forward was a major criminal justice overhaul.

The bill started out as an amendment filed to House Bill 163, but after significant pushback from citizens, police, and prosecutors, the proposal was then moved to an amendment on House Bill 3653.

Some of the major components of the bill include:

  • Eliminates cash bail completely by Jan. 1, 2023.
  • Creates several new and potentially costly unfunded mandates, including new training requirements and body camera mandates.
  • Bases preference for police department grants on compliance with body camera mandates.
  • Requires suspects to be granted three phone calls within three hours of their arrest.
  • Creates a task force to study the feasibility of removing qualified immunity from police officers.

Some of the most controversial aspects of the original bill were removed before voting, including stripping certain collective bargaining rights from police officers. While the original bill contained language that would have also stripped qualified immunity from officers, an important protection that many jobs have, the version that passed created a commission to study the idea, meaning it could still happen.

The nearly 800-page final bill was filed in the early hours of Wednesday, January 13, and then called for a vote just after 4 a.m., leaving little time for lawmakers to read it before voting or even discussing. In addition, debate was limited to just a couple of Senators from each side, severely limiting the transparency of the process.

Opponents of the legislation note that it will increase costs to police departments, which could lead to fewer police officers on the street or increases to property taxes. The financial issues are why many police groups have referred to the legislation as a backdoor “defund the police” plan.

Many police officers, criminal justice advocates, and citizens are still working to stop the bill from being signed into law. You can voice your opposition as well by contacting the Governor’s office and urging him not to sign it here: https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/gov/contactus/Pages/VoiceAnOpinion.aspx.

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