Ill. State Senate committee focuses on drug penalty reform, elderly parole

“In 1980 our prison population was 11,768. Today it stands at more than 30,000. Despite a decades-long decline in the overall crime rate, data shows that increased drug arrests by the police and the enactment of punitive sentencing policies for drug offenses were major drivers in the spike in incarceration,” Ruddell said.

In 2018, Ruddell said, 60 percent of those arrested for a drug crime in Illinois were Black.

“While Black Illinoisans make up 14.5 percent of the state’s population, they make up 54.8 of those in prison and are imprisoned at 8.8 times the rate of whites, one of the worst disparities of any state,” he said.

Isolated to drug crimes, the disparities are larger. Between 2016 and 2018, Black Illinoisans made up 69 percent of drug offenders admitted to the Illinois Department of Corrections, and 59 percent of strictly cannabis offenders.

Ruddell suggested three reforms to combat these disparities: reduction of all drug crimes by one class; reclassification of felony possession to a misdemeanor; and elimination of mandatory minimums and sentence enhancements. Lawmakers discussed the third point in a previous joint hearing.

Wendell Robinson, from Restore Justice Illinois, said as a juvenile he was sentenced to life in prison for violent crimes. Robinson served more than 25 years before being released in 2018 after a 2012 Supreme Court decision that made mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders unconstitutional.

City: Quad Cities,Feeds,News,QC,Region: QC

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September 29, 2020 at 07:51PM

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