Rauner signs bill to end arrests for being seen with alleged gang members

Rauner signs bill to end arrests for being seen with alleged gang members

House Bill 3803 changes Illinois’ criminal code so that people on parole and probation no longer have to fear arrest for merely having contact with gang members.

Under a new law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 22, people on parole and probation will no longer be arrested for simply having contact with suspected gang members.

House Bill 3803, now Public Act 100-0279, amends the state’s criminal code by providing that persons on parole or probation or out on bond on condition that they do not make contact with gang members (or people in other situations in which a judge has ordered them not to make contact with gang members), violate the terms of those arrangements only if they “knowingly commit[] any act in furtherance of streetgang related activity.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, filed the bill and served as HB 3803’s chief sponsor. The proposal received bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Cassidy called Rauner’s signing of HB 3803 a step toward a “fix to one of the worse abuses of criminal law in our state.”

“The notion that someone could be arrested and prosecuted simply for being in their neighborhood, talking to people, or in their own yard, is beyond troubling,” Cassidy said in a statement reported by the Sun-Times.

This bill’s passage marks an important victory for criminal justice reform in Illinois. An investigation by the Sun-Times revealed that the Chicago Police Department made thousands of arrests by targeting parolees who made contact with gang members, most of which occurred after the city decriminalized marijuana possession in 2012.

It’s hard enough for ex-offenders to re-enter society and obtain gainful employment; they shouldn’t have to worry about being arrested just for being in the same room as individuals with alleged gang affiliations. The law’s previous language was overly broad. In many neighborhoods to which ex-offenders return there are people with gang ties, and it can be difficult to avoid them. This law will stop parolees and others from being arrested for simply living in their communities.

The new law could also make a dent in Illinois’ high recidivism rate. A 2015 report from the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, estimated that 48 percent of inmates released from Illinois prisons will recidivate within three years of release, and 19 percent will do so within one year of release.

In addition to perpetuating the cycle of crime, recidivism is also a major cost for Illinoisans. Each instance of recidivism costs a combined $118,746 when taxpayer costs, indirect economic losses and costs borne by the victim are included. Expenses associated with recidivism are estimated to cost Illinoisans more than $16 billion over the course of five years.

Guilt by association is a flawed and expensive way to determine whether someone should be arrested. Public Act 100-0279 will help solve this problem.

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