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Illinois Lawmakers Pass Massive Criminal Justice Reform Bill


In the eleventh hour during a lame-duck session of the Illinois General Assembly on January 13, 2021, lawmakers from both sides of the chamber approved a massive 764-page criminal justice reform bill meant to reshape the state’s law police departments and justice system. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is likely to sign HB 3653 into law sometime this month. 

The following are some of the provisions included in the omnibus package: 

  • End cash bail – The legislation would mean nearly everyone would be released from jail while they wait for their trial, unless a judge declares that a defendant is a flight risk or a danger to public safety. Under the bill, agencies would have two years to prepare for the change – with cash bail being completely terminated on January 1, 2023. 

  • New guidelines for the “decertification” of officers – The bill expands the list of misdemeanors that would result in decertification of an officer or prohibit someone from becoming a law enforcement official. According to current state law, if an officer is convicted, found guilty, pleads no contest, or sentenced to probation for a felony or some misdemeanors, he/she could lose certification. The additional misdemeanors include solicitation of a sexual act, indecent solicitation of an adult, solicitation to meet a minor, public indecency, domestic battery, inferring with the reporting of domestic violence, harassment by telephone and through electronic communication, transmission of obscene messages, evidence interference, and witness tampering. 

  • Increase police accountability and transparency – The legislation includes a number of measures that address police accountability, such as prohibiting chokeholds by officers, expanding the officer misconduct database, expands police training on crisis intervention and first aid administration, make police misconduct complaints anonymous, requires reporting on deaths in police custody, expand mental health services for officers, and requires the statewide use of body cameras by 2025. 

  • Reform detainee and prisoner rights – To ensure the criminal justice system in Illinois is fair for all, there are several measures that address the rights of detainees, inmates, and citizens. When it comes to detainee rights, a person has a right to make three free phone calls within three hours of arriving at a police station and prior to questioning. Measures for inmates include providing pregnant inmates with more medical services and prohibiting those with less than four months left on their sentence form from being sent back to prison. The bill also provides changes to increase compensation for crime victims, such as expanding the eligibility to any who lived in the home of a victim (rather than just legal family members), expanding the time limit to apply for compensation, and increasing the maximum awarded to victims and families. 

This sweeping reform bill was introduced by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the national unrest that followed last summer. 

If you have been the victim of police misconduct in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Steven Fine today at (312) 436-0638