Report: Criminal justice reform proposals could reduce prison population, save state taxpayers $110 million

August 6, 2015

Illinois can achieve the goal of a lower crime rate, lower incarceration rate and smarter spending on criminal justice while maintaining public safety

CHICAGO (Aug. 6, 2015) – Illinois could save nearly $110 million and significantly reduce its over-crowded prisons if it implements a series of policy changes, according to a report issued today by the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute.

The report, “Making Illinois smart on crime: First steps to reduce spending, ease offender re-entry and enhance public safety,” details how Illinois’ criminal justice system could be more efficient and cut back on its $1.4 billion budget. Too often, prison systems are regarded as a place to warehouse offenders and today Illinois’ prisons are at nearly 150 percent capacity. But these reforms would make Illinois’ prison system more effective, and more focused on reforming people who commit crimes so they can complete their sentences and become productive members of society.

“With policy and legislative changes, Illinois can achieve the goal of a lower crime rate, lower incarceration rate and smarter spending on criminal justice while maintaining public safety,” said Bryant Jackson-Green, criminal justice policy analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute and author of the report. “The key is focusing on rehabilitation and recovery, not just punishment and putting people behind bars.”

Reforming Illinois’ prison system starts with the following changes:

  • Expanding Adult Redeploy, a program that provides incentives for counties to create alternative programs for nonviolent offenders to received targeted care instead of going to state prison.
  • Establishing a restorative-justice program that brings victims together with offenders for mediation on property crimes.
  • Eliminating “max-outs” and encourage offenders to trade more time under mandatory supervised release for less time during the final year of their prison sentence.
  • Reclassifying nonviolent drug offenses the way Utah, South Carolina and other states have done so that low-level drug possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
  • Removing occupational-licensing restrictions to offer ex-offenders to work and support their families outside of crime.
  • Raising felony thresholds – the dollar ranges that match the value of property stolen – to the severity of sentences. These thresholds currently are not linked to inflation.

“We applaud the interest shown to reform Illinois’ prison system by the Illinois Legislature and Gov. Rauner,” said Derek Cohen, deputy director in the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who co-authored the report. “Now is the perfect time to enact these common-sense reforms that provide better public safety and relief to the long suffering taxpayers of Illinois.”

The report is available online here:

FOR INTERVIEWS, CONTACT: Nathaniel Hamilton or Joe Kaiser 312-607-4977