Hailing it as a “significant step in rolling back 30 years of failed tough-on-crime policies that have torn apart communities of color and failed to improve public safety,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and state lawmakers unveiled Preckwinkle’s legislative agenda on criminal justice at a press conference Tuesday.

The agenda consists of four bills introduced in the Illinois General Assembly, sponsored by State Sen. Kwame RaoulRep. Barbara Flynn Currie, and Rep. Elaine Nekritz. Per the President’s office: 

  • SB 3292 (Raoul) – Once amended, will:

    • Make residential burglary, second and subsequent Class 2 felonies, and certain drug violations probationable (per the recommendation of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform).

    • Create misdemeanor-level possession of a controlled substance offense for 1 gram or under.

    • Narrow the scope of the Class X sentence enhancement for repeat offenders to focus primarily on violent crimes.

  • HB 6290 (Nekritz) – Would ban commitment of juveniles to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice for any offense under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act.

  • HB 6291 (Nekritz) – Would end mandatory 5-year probation for juveniles for Class X and Forcible Felonies.

  • HB 2470 (Currie) – Would provide periodic judicial review of sentences for anyone sentenced to 40 years or more as a juvenile in adult court.

Preckwinkle said these changes will help to reduce the state prison population, improve public safety, and bring juvenile justice laws in line with research and best practices. Commissioners Jesus “Chuy” GarciaStanley MooreLuis Arroyo, Jr. and State Rep. Elgie Sims were also in attendance. Preckwinkle thanked the ACLU, the Cook County Public Defender and Restore Justice Illinois “for their partnership.”

It’s the second initiative Preckwinkle has announced in as many weeks to reduce prison populations. On Feb 29, she and officials from the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) announced a series of behavioral health initiatives aimed at reducing costs and the headcount at Cook County Jail. Those proposals include a planned early intervention triage center on the city’s South Side, a behavioral health partnership with groups like C4 and Metropolitan Family Services, expanded substance abuse treatment, and integrating behavioral health services with primary care at CCHHS’ 16 community health centers.

In a statement, Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of CCHHS said, “Waiting until an at-risk individual is arrested and detained is both costly and a failure of our societal systems. If we can employ strategies to link individuals with the needed services before they commit a crime related to untreated or undertreated behavioral health disorders, then we can reduce the jail population, emergency room visits and improve the health and safety of our communities.”