Governor weighs in on criminal justice reform bill

By Raymon Troncoso Capitol News Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks from the governor’s office Monday, Jan. 11 at the Capitol in Springfield, giving an update on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination effort and taking questions about his priorities for the lame duck legislative session. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker took questions on a massive criminal justice omnibus bill backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus on Monday, noting he was generally “in favor of the process and the work that the Black Caucus has done overall.”

When pressed on specific provisions in the bill that have been seen as controversial, especially as it relates to changes in how policing is done in the state, Pritzker said he would wait until the final version of the bill is presented to him.

“Those bills are quite extensive, I’m not going to go down every issue,” he said. “But, I have favored ending cash bail, I’ve worked with (Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago) on it. … I favor the work that (Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul) is doing on police reform, we’re all working together, I think, to get good results.”

Raoul’s bill, which would reform police certification and standards, has support from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, in contrast to other criminal justice legislation from the Black Caucus that has faced strong opposition from law enforcement.

The omnibus criminal justice legislation, originally introduced as an amendment to House Bill 163, was also filed as an amendment House Bill 3653 Sunday, Jan. 10 as lawmakers continue to consider changes to existing language and additions of new language. Either bill would require action in the Senate before moving to the House for approval then heading to the governor for a signature.

For the third day of hearings in the House Criminal Judiciary Committee, lawmakers heard testimony Monday, this time focusing on detainee rights.

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli spoke in favor of provisions in the bill that would allow detainees three phone calls in their first hour in law enforcement custody. She also backed requirements that posters or literature explaining the rights of people in custody be displayed in every room where someone is held in custody except for prison lock-up.

The provision is an update of two state laws, one from 1963 that guarantees certain rights for people in custody, including phone calls, and one from 1965 regarding display of information on detainee rights.

Another provision would allow detainees in custody to access their cellphone under the supervision of law enforcement for the purpose of obtaining phone numbers for making their allotted phone calls.

Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, questioned what would happen if someone’s cellphone was evidence in a criminal investigation. According to Campanelli, the bill would still allow for detainees to access their cellphone, but since it would be under the supervision of law enforcement, she believes it would not lead to the loss of evidence.

During the hearing, the ranking Republican member, Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, questioned committee chair Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, one of the crafters of the legislation, on whether Pritzker has agreed to sign the bill as written.

“We’re working with the governor, but we have not asked for him to commit to the bill as written,” Slaughter said, indicating the same regarding House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The more-than-600-page bill would also heavily revamp use-of-force guidelines, mandate body cameras for every law enforcement agency, end cash bail, remove some qualified immunity protections, and strip collective bargaining rights relating to discipline from police unions. Further language could be added in a future amendment as well.

Black Caucus Chair Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said in an October news conference the caucus would hold Pritzker, Madigan and Senate President Dan Harmon, D-Oak Park, accountable for their pledged support.


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