Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill last week that will expand the types of crimes that will be eligible for probation and rehabilitation in lieu of a prison sentence. Additionally, the bill will look into building trauma centers in state prisons to ensure prisoners have better access to physical and mental health needs while behind bars.
“This will help keep our community safer, help victims of crime recover, and help those who committed a crime get the rehabilitation they need,” said Rauner. “Prison should not just be about punishment [and] locking people away. It needs to be about preventing the individual offender from committing crimes again.”
Rehab Vs. Prison
Some people may read the first two sentences of this blog and think that Illinois is going “soft” on crime, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, offenders need to be punished for their actions, but in order to prevent future crime or cases of recidivism, we need to focus on the mental rehabilitation aspects that are involved.
Rep Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, who lost her son to a gun crime, supports to move towards rehabilitation.
“The work we have done with this bill will have such a transformative impact on communities all across the state,” she said. “We’re doing more to deal with crime and violence than just incarcerating people by throwing them into institutions where they’re coming out far worse that when they went in.”
Understanding The Changes
Here are some of the changes that will go into effect under the new law:
- Crimes like marijuana trafficking, cocaine possession and other drug crimes may be eligible for probation instead of prison time if granted by a judge.
- Establishing rehab centers within state prisons with the goal of preventing recidivism once inmates are released. Currently, there are no such centers with similar goals in the state, despite the availability of federal funding for the centers.
- Some prisoners can get time off of their sentences (depending on the crime they were charged with) if they have good behavior and they undergo a risk/needs assessment.
Hopefully the state follows through with their plan to build these rehab centers in the prison, especially if federal funding can foot a decent portion of the bill. We’ll keep an eye on the changes as they’re put in motion.