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NEW!  MARCH 10, 2011 

CLEAR COMMISSION REVIEW OF ILLINOIS CRIMINAL CODE STEPS CLOSER TO COMPLETION

A multi-year effort to make the lengthy Illinois Criminal Code less complex, easier to comprehend and error-free is 90 percent complete.

On Thursday, March 10, 2011 Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 1310, which rewrites Criminal Code articles covering sex offenses, bodily harm offenses and deception and fraud.

To read more about this new legislation, please click here.


Public Act 96-0711 -Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC)

The recommendation for creating a Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC) came out of the work of the CLEAR Commission. After going through the Criminal Code and Code of Corrections line-by-line to edit the Codes for better clarity and fairness, CLEAR Commissioners recognized the importance of sentencing policies and practices on the costs and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. In their examination of the issue, it became evident that there are not enough regular sentencing data readily available to policy makers to permit a timely and comprehensive analysis of the impact of sentencing in Illinois and to improve the overall management and efficiency of the criminal justice process .

The Sentencing Policy Advisory Council will draw on criminal justice information collected by other agencies and use that information to explore sentencing issues and how these practices impact the criminal justice system as a whole. Currently, there are 22 active state sentencing policy entities – sentencing commissions – (including in the District of Columbia) in the United States. Sentencing commissions vary in terms of their structure, membership, duties and relationship with state government.

 

Public Act 96-0710 First Nine Articles of the Criminal Code Re-write and Public Act 96-0712 – Forfeiture

Public Act 96-0710 and Public Act 96-0712 are the first segments of an updated Criminal Code to be reviewed by the Illinois General Assembly. The Criminal Code rewrite is the result of four years of deliberations by the CLEAR Commission, a group of prominent criminal justice system stakeholders convened to fix the broken Code and align forty years of case law. The bills encompass a portion (about one-quarter) of the recommendations produced by the CLEAR Commission to streamline and reorganize the Code so that it is easier to understand, apply and obey. The rest of the recommendations are being finalized for future General Assembly review.

Public Act 96-0710 (including Criminal Act and Mental State, Kidnapping, and Second Degree Murder) and Public Act 96-0712 (Forfeiture) are part of a package, along with Public Act 96-0711 which creates the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, an entity to monitor the costs and activities of the criminal justice and corrections systems.

Fact sheets and commentary on these key pieces of legislation may be found to the right under "KEY ISSUES"

 

GOVERNOR SIGNS LEGISLATION TO CLEAR UP CONFUSION IN STATE SENTENCING LAWS

SPRINGFIELD – Legislation signed on April 10, 2009 by Gov. Pat Quinn will clear up confusion in the state’s disorganized and sometimes ambiguous criminal sentencing laws. Senate Bill 100, which was recommended by the Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform (CLEAR) Commission, rewrites the Illinois Code of Corrections, making it easier to understand without altering the severity of punishment for any criminal convictions.

To read more about this bill, you may read our press release by clicking here.

 

ABOUT THE CLEAR COMMISSION

Since the Illinois Criminal Code was last overhauled by the General Assembly more than 45 years ago, thousands of well-intentioned changes have riddled the Criminal Code with redundancies, inconsistencies and confusing language. A Code that once made clear distinctions between right and wrong and concisely explained the penalties for each transgression now confounds even experienced lawyers and judges.


The CLEAR Commission has been meeting since early 2005 in an intensive process to review and reform the Illinois Criminal Code and Code of Corrections to make them more readable, understandable, consistent and just. The Commission has completed its recommendations and they are currently being drafted. The new Criminal Code is less complex, easier to comprehend and includes the same crimes and punishments enacted by past legislatures.

In January 2009, the rewrite of the Code of Corrections passed the Illinois General Assembly.


 

BENEFITS OF LESS COMPLEX ILLINOIS CRIMINAL CODE

  • The Code will be more accessible to laypeople trying to obey the law.
  • Judges and lawyers will find the Code easier to understand and apply.
  • The reform will eliminate disputes over interpretation of the Code that can reduce costly retrials, court delays and mistakes.
  • The size of the Code will be reduced significantly, and indexing will be improved.
  • Policy makers will more easily understand the implications of amendments proposed in the future.
  • The new Code will limit the opportunity for lengthy and expensive appeals due to confusion with the existing Code.

HOW THE REVIEW PROCESS WORKED

The CLEAR Commission includes respected policy makers and practitioners representing diverse perspectives on the criminal justice system, as well as the geographic, racial and economic composition of the state. Co-chaired by former Governor James R. Thompson and former Illinois Appellate Court Justice Gino L. DiVito, the Commission detailed on the left includes members appointed by the four legislative leaders, as well as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement representatives, the Attorney General and representatives of the Governor.


The Commission met quarterly to discuss recommended changes, hear alternatives and refine draft language. Over the past two years, every line of the more than 300,000 word Code was reviewed and replacement language will reduce the size of the Code by about one-third.

All Commission decisions were made by consensus and required the approval of all members.


ACTION AGENDA

Beginning in January 2008, CLEAR Commissioners agreed to explore the following issues relating to criminal sentencing and imprisonment:

  • Illinois policymakers must better understand the data/information about Illinois’ sentencing system – including (1) who goes to prison (2) for what crimes (3) for how long, (4) what the underlying costs are and (5) how these issues impact public safety.
  • Illinois should consider designing or mandating one entity to gather and analyze sentencing data in order to provide policymakers with factual information on how current laws are working, as well as the long term effect and potential unintended consequences of proposed sentencing changes with the goals of reducing the costs of incarceration and recidivism while improving public safety.
  • Based on similar analytical approaches in other states, an Illinois analysis will likely suggest the need to divert certain populations out of prison and into incarceration alternatives like mental health courts, drug schools and drug courts.
  • There should be a cost-benefit analysis done in Illinois to quantify the impact of incarceration alternatives, leading to better informed decisions about how Illinois resources spent on the criminal justice system could be redeployed at the local and state levels more effectively.
  • It may be necessary to develop an entity/process to assess which people in the system are to be appropriately assigned to incarceration alternatives. This assessment approach would be constantly monitored and analyzed based on actual case outcomes.
  • Along a parallel track, there should be further analysis of how to classify Class X and 1-4 felonies in order to make these sentencing classification laws more understandable, consistent and clear.

 


RECOMMENDATIONS

Work Groups addressed these issues with the following charges:

Data and Sentencing Structures Work Group
Based on Illinois experience and models from other states:

  • Develop an understanding of what data and information will be necessary to analyze the impact of current sentencing and incarceration practices
  • Design a format to collect future data
  • Create a process to collect the data
  • Consider the advisability of a Sentencing Commission for Illinois.

Public Safety and Diversion Work Group
Based on Illinois experience and models from other states, and using data collected consistent with recommendations from the Data and Sentencing Commission Work Group has

  • Explore how to design a risk-assessment process to help determine who should be incarcerated and who are possible candidates for diversion from incarceration
  • Designe a cost-benefit model to determine what implementation of this process could achieve
  • Examine what institutional entities would be appropriate to oversee the implementation
  • Examine what alternative programs are effective, their costs, and the Illinois capacity to employ these alternatives currently and in the future.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SUPPORTERS

Financial and in-kind support for the CLEAR Initiative has been provided by Bank One Foundation; the Chicago Bar Foundation; the Field Foundation; David Heller; Illinois Bar Foundation; the JEHT Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP; the New Prospect Foundation; The Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States; the Rockit Fund; the Steans Family Foundation; the University of Chicago Law School; the Wieboldt Foundation; Winston & Strawn LLP; and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

 
 
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KEY ISSUES

SB1300 and SB1325 Fact sheet (P.A. 96-0710 and P.A. 96-0712)


Commentary on SB1300 (P.A. 96-0710)



Commentary on SB1325 (P.A. 96-0712)


SB 1320 Fact Sheet (P.A. 96-0711)

Fact Sheet on Code of Corrections Rewrite


Fact Sheet on Criminal Code Rewrite

Articles

Press Releases