Reform the criminal justice system in Illinois

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Cook County Jail houses more than 8,000 inmates; due to racially biased policing practices and extremely restrictive punitive laws across the country, our jails are overflowing and expending large costs, resulting in the disenfranchisement of over 6 million people across the country. As a result, Cook County Jail is now the largest mental health care facility in the United States.

Between 2009 and 2012, Illinois lawmakers slashed the mental health services budget by $113.7 million, closing two inpatient facilities and six clinics in Chicago. As a result, many individuals in need of mental health care are pushed to the streets and eventually housed in Cook County Jail for nonviolent crimes--ultimately, being stripped of their right to vote. According to a study conducted at the University of Southern California Shaeffer Center in 2016, the overall cost of incarceration of prisoners in Illinois with serious mental illnesses exceeds $193 million. These jarring statistics show the heavy burden placed on prisons to provide mental health care as a result of the 2009 budget cuts, demonstrating the seriousness of mass incarceration practices in Illinois and across the United States. 

We urge the Illinois Governor and General Assembly to take legislative action to repair our broken criminal justice system. While it is understood that mass incarceration is a systemic issue, we urge the state of Illinois to take these steps to alleviate the problem: 

  • increase funding for childcare and education services
  • close the Homan Square detention center
  • fight back against the problematic 1994 Crime Bill
  • urge the Governor to sign SB 2090 which restores the right to vote to formerly incarcerated individuals

The state of Illinois should adopt these practices to confront the issue of mass incarceration and foster a criminal justice system concerned with rehabilitation and the protection of human rights. 


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