Senator Elgie Sims, Jr. speaks about Illinois Criminal Justice Reform Bill

By Courtney Alexander, Staff Reporter

HB3653, Illinois’ Criminal Justice Reform Bill, passed the state House and Senate on Jan. 13, 2021. The bill eliminates cash bail throughout the state of Illinois among other reforms and Gov. JB Pritzker signed it on Feb. 22, 2021.

The Carbondale NAACP branch hosted an event on March 8 to give community members clarification about the bill.

The comprehensive bill enacts new changes to hold police officers accountable for using excessive force on citizens and it reanalyzes the traditional bail system in court. 

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The safety act also enacts changes to sentencing convicts within the state and it addresses the rights of all citizens, including prisoners, when interacting with law enforcement. 

Sen. Elgie R Sims, Jr., representative for district 17 of Illinois, said HB3653, which is also known as the Safety Act, is a pro-reform piece of legislation that modernizes state laws.

“HB 3653, the safety act, is the most comprehensive pro-safety, pro-reform, and pro-community piece of legislation that has been passed, not just within the state of Illinois, but around the county,” Sims said. “It modernizes sentencing laws, it ends the use of cash bail, but it still allows an individual to be held if they’re a threat to safety.” 

Sims said the Safety Act also requires law enforcement officers to wear body cameras on duty.

“It also institutes a certification and decertification system statewide for law enforcement officers. It requires the use of body cameras statewide by 2025, it reforms the way crowd control response is done by law enforcement. 

The act also ensures that law enforcement officers will have new training standards, and there will be more information accessible to the public.

“It also invests in law enforcement training standards, it prevents the destruction of law enforcement misconduct records, it connects substance abuse treatment programs with first responder duties, and it creates two police misconduct databases for public viewing and transparency,” Sims said. 

The attorney general is encouraged to get involved to investigate deaths that occur in police custody, and officers will be screened for mental health.

“It requires the police to develop a plan to protect children and other vulnerable populations when executing search warrants. It empowers the attorney general to investigate deaths occurring in police custody, but it also addresses officer wellness and training,” Sims said. “It invests in mental health and screens for law enforcement officers, invests in training protocols, but also bans the house of chokeholds and other extreme measures.”

The bill does not support taking action to defund law enforcement, and it doesn’t support taking away basic rights from law enforcement officers. 

“The bill doesn’t defund the police, it doesn’t remove qualified immunity for law enforcement officers, it doesn’t charge or take away collective bargaining rights, it doesn’t allow those who are charged with a serious offense or risk to another person to be released,” Sims said. 

The amount of prison time served for serious crimes won’t be changed for offenders under the bill. 

“It doesn’t prevent a judge from revoking pretrial release, it also doesn’t alter prison time for individuals serving time for heinous crimes,” Sims said. 

Although there are several misconceptions about the bill, the bill was created to ensure that the community is protected and that law enforcement officers are held accountable. 

“There are a number of misconceptions and misinformation that’s going on, but the safety act is about investment,” Sims said. “This is a pro-safety, pro-reform, pro-community, piece of legislation, and now law. It focuses on safety for our communities, accountability for law enforcement officers, and fairness equity in our criminal justice system.”

Courtney Alexander can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at ___Courtney_alex23______. 

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