SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Secure Communities Coalition and REFORM Alliance applaud the General Assembly for passing smart and sensible supervision reforms that will increase public safety, save taxpayer dollars, and promote stronger, more stable communities.
More than 100,000 people in Illinois are currently serving time on probation, parole, or mandatory supervised release. Instead of holding people accountable, contributing to public safety, and increasing stability in communities, Illinois’ supervision system too often operates as a revolving door back to prison. A Department of Corrections (DOC) report revealed that more than 1 in 4 – or 25% – of people released from prison in Illinois end up back behind bars for a non-criminal technical violation, (like missing a meeting with their probation officer) within three years of their release. This needless incarceration places a heavy burden on taxpayers, crime survivors, and Illinois’ communities.
With unanimous support in the House and Senate, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 423, evidence-based legislation to create a more effective and transparent supervision system. Along with decreasing taxpayer costs and reducing the likelihood of recidivism, these reforms also significantly contribute to public safety by creating an incentive for people to pursue recidivism-reducing activities like education. These improvements would also safely reduce supervision officers’ caseloads, allowing officers to spend more time on those individuals with the greatest risks and needs.
SB423 was sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth, Rep. Patrick Windhorst and Senate President Pro-Tempore Bill Cunningham. It now awaits Governor Pritzker’s signature. There are four evidence-based provisions that are expected to become law:
- Education credits. People on mandatory supervised release will be eligible to earn 90 days off their supervision terms by completing a secondary education diploma or career/technical certificate. These activities help individuals form a positive self-image and gain marketable skills, increasing their ability to transform their lives and provide for their families.
- Virtual check-ins. SB423 creates a statewide, permanent framework to enable people on probation, parole, and mandatory supervised release to report to their probation officers remotely. This mitigates one of the most common sources of technical violations while providing greater flexibility for officers to manage their caseloads and connect with people on supervision in a manner that better supports their rehabilitative goals. Many counties in Illinois embraced the greater use of technology for remote reporting during the pandemic, and successfully maintained accountability and protected community stability and safety.
- Sensible supervision conditions and drug testing. The newly passed legislation requires that courts impose individualized supervision requirements on each defendant, ensuring that one-size-fits-all conditions do not unduly serve as barriers to success. This also includes ensuring that drug testing is utilized only when there is a reasonable suspicion of illicit drug use, which will conserve state resources and limit interruptions to employers.
- Prisoner Review Board transparency. People on mandatory supervised release or parole have the opportunity to go in front of the Prisoner Review Board (PRB) to file for early discharge. But to date, the process lacked transparency. SB423 standardizes the case review process for early termination of supervision and creates clear guidelines and timelines. Those who are denied early discharge by the Department of Corrections (DOC) or PRB will have clear guidance on how they need to improve to be a good candidate in the future. This ensures that people are aware of the hurdles they must clear to be considered in the future and reduces the current frustration and confusion that comes from the lack of information and guidance accompanying present decisions.
If signed into law by Governor Pritzker, the new provisions would help up to 330,000 avoid the risk of technical violations by expanding access to remote reporting and would safely reduce supervision terms for more than 30,000 people on mandatory supervised release over the next five years.
“REFORM applauds the Illinois General Assembly for passing legislation to make the state’s supervision system work better for individuals, families, and communities,” said Robert Rooks, CEO of REFORM Alliance. “We must remove barriers to work and wellbeing for people on probation and parole. This bill is a critical step forward for public safety, and we urge Governor Pritzker to sign it into law.”
“It sends an important message when such a diverse group of advocates and lawmakers find common ground to keep our communities safe,” said Erin Haney, Senior Director of Policy and Law for REFORM Alliance. “These unlikely allies, who are often on opposite sides of most issues, joined together to champion this legislation because the evidence clearly shows that these reforms are good for communities, good for public safety, and good for individuals on supervision. Thanks to the tremendous leadership of Speaker Pro-Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth, Rep. Windhorst, and Senate Pro Tempore Bill Cunningham, these reforms – if signed into law – could safely and promptly reduce the number of people on supervision while saving taxpayers more than $25 million over the next five years. By replacing ineffective supervision practices with evidence-based supports, this new law can improve circumstances and outcomes for people on supervision and increase stability and safety for us all.”
“REFORM is proud to work in coalition with public safety stakeholders from all walks of life,” said Roxane Jackson, Midwest Regional Director for REFORM Alliance, “from business leaders, clergy, advocates and policymakers across the political spectrum to formerly incarcerated individuals, people who’ve spent time on supervision in Illinois, and their concerned family members. We came together because we truly believe that this legislation will not just change the lives of people on supervision, it will create a ripple effect across our communities by lowering repeat offenses, strengthening families, and growing our workforce. Our coalition won’t stop fighting until these changes are made law and are urging Governor Pritzker to sign SB423 as soon as possible.”
“I’ve experienced Illinois’ supervision system firsthand and can definitively say that this legislation will have a profound impact on the lives of thousands of individuals. When I was on mandatory supervised release, I often felt like I was set up to fail, navigating a maze of rules and conditions with little to no support. The constant threat of returning to prison for a minor violation was a heavy burden that did little to encourage my rehabilitation or contribute to public safety.” said Mark McCombs, Public Policy Analyst at SAFER Foundation, a member of the Illinois Secure Communities Coalition. “SB423, however, is poised to change this. The opportunities to earn time off supervision through education, the introduction of virtual check-ins, sensible drug testing, and greater transparency with the Prisoner Review Board will ensure that our state leads the way in creating a more humane and effective supervision system. The legislation also provides a clear path toward success for people on supervision, which is going to make us safer. I urge Governor Pritzker to sign SB423 into law as soon as possible, so we can get to the urgent work of rebuilding lives and strengthening our communities.”
About REFORM Alliance:
REFORM Alliance aims to transform probation and parole by changing laws, systems, and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing. A justice system that holds people accountable and redirects back to work and wellbeing leads to stronger families and safer communities. Instead of keeping people trapped in a revolving door from probation/parole to prison — which costs taxpayers billions of dollars — we’re working to move people from the justice system into stability. REFORM’s story starts with the unjust re-imprisonment of recording artist Meek Mill. The shocking two-to-four-year sentence he received for popping a wheelie spurred the international #FreeMeek movement, which led to release on bail and eventually his freedom. Although Meek had the resources and public platform to fight his case, his case is only one of millions. The vast majority of people trapped in the system don’t get their stories told, or have the resources to fight back. On January 23, 2019, a world-class group of philanthropists and activists came together to launch the REFORM Alliance to change this.
About Illinois Secure Communities Coalition:
The Illinois Secure Communities Coalition is made up of more than 47 groups across the state of Illinois who are working together to improve Illinois’ supervision system and build safer, stronger, more prosperous communities. Our bipartisan coalition includes advocacy organizations, business leaders, employers, faith leaders, concerned citizens, and other key stakeholders from across the state. We believe that by working together, we can make a real impact on the lives of individuals and communities affected by the supervision system in Illinois.