SPRINGFIELD — For the past year, Illinois Republicans have attempted to make crime a major campaign issue in the midterm elections, harping on concerns about a sprawling criminal justice reform law signed in early 2021.
“We’re going to be running on public safety,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin in January. “What party has the back of law enforcement? What party, more importantly, has the backs of victims? It’s the Republicans. The Democrats have abandoned this.”
Though other issues like inflation and abortion rights have at times blocked it from reaching centerstage, a confluence of events the past few weeks have brought the matter back into focus.
Chief among those factors is timing. Several key provisions of the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, better known as the SAFE-T Act, take effect Jan. 1 — just over three months away. Not to mention there’s an election in just under seven weeks.
The law, passed in the middle of the night in early January 2021 with bare majorities, represents the most significant overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system in a generation.
Provisions include heightened use of force standards for police officers and the requirement that all officers wear body cameras by 2025.
But the portion of the law receiving the most attention is the “Pretrial Fairness Act,” which abolishes the state’s cash bail system starting in January.
Broadly speaking, this change is meant to reduce the number of people who are jailed simply because they lack the financial means to bond out while awaiting trial for low-level or nonviolent offenses.
Under the new system, judges will have discretion to order pretrial detention under specific circumstances, taking into account factors like danger to the community and individuals as well as the defendant’s flight risk.
The standards that can be used depend on the severity of the charge.
There is no such thing as a “non-detainable” offense under the new law, despite misinformation that’s been spread by conservative outlets online. However, there are probation-eligible charges such as second-degree murder, arson and aggravated battery where, as written, judges would only be able to order pretrial detention if prosecutors can prove the defendant is a flight risk or in violation of their parole or probation.
This, among other issues, has raised concerns from Republicans and a number of state’s attorneys about the law’s impact when it takes effect in January.
The situation also displays the nuances, confusion and, at times, lack of clarity in the law’s language that may need to be cleaned up before it takes effect. Some changes will likely come in the legislature’s veto session this November.
Time is short, which partially explains why the issue has been in the news as of late. But, part of it too is the rise of misinformation surrounding the law.
Some have spread misinformation about “non-detainable” offenses and have compared the law to “The Purge,” the movie about an annual holiday where all crime is legal. These claims either untrue or misleading.
Still, this rise of misinformation exposes a hard truth: This 764-page law is extensive and, at times, incredibly confusing.
Beyond the headlines of “no more cash bail” and “mandated police body cameras,” Democrats have not done an adequate job of explaining to voters what’s in the law they championed.
The mainstream news media, admittedly, has not done a great job to this point of explaining the law’s nuances either.
And many opponents of the law have filled this information vacuum with misinformation. It’s not hard to see why people are so confused by what this law does and does not do.
Of course, there are legitimate concerns with the law. And many of its opponents are honest brokers who are fair-minded and not hyperpartisan.
In the next three months, there could be some changes that could help clarify certain elements that pertain to pretrial detention.
But in the meantime, expect it to be a major campaign issue as Republicans seek to paint Democrats as “soft on crime.”
Though expect more pushback on the claims that have no basis in fact.
Another message Republicans have hit home is corruption.
Well, the message received more oxygen on Tuesday as state Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago, was indicted on federal bribery charges relating to money he took from a red light camera company in exchange for killing unfavorable legislation.
Jones is the ninth member of the General Assembly to face federal charges in the past few years. All but one are Democrats.
Former state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, pleaded guilty to a federal embezzlement charge earlier this year.
Most notably, former House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was indicted on racketeering and corruption charges in March. The former speaker has pleaded not guilty.
State fair hits record attendance
More than 636,000 people attended the 2022 Illinois State Fair, making it the highest-attended fair since industry standard attendance calculations were implemented in 2014, state officials confirmed this week.
This year’s fair easily bested the 471,000 who attended in 2021 — the first after a pandemic-induced hiatus in 2020 — and the 509,000 in 2019, which was the previous record.
The best-attended day was the first Sunday, which saw 80,331 people pass through the gates. This was closely followed by the first Saturday with attendance of 79,298. The second Friday of the fair hit 75,182.
More than 48,000 tickets were sold for Grandstand shows, with country duo Brooks & Dunn drawing 10,142 concertgoers that first Sunday.
There were many factors that contributed to the fair’s success in 2022. But perhaps no larger was the weather, which was near-perfect during its 11-day run.
The 2023 Illinois State Fair will run August 10-20 in Springfield.
Teachers union endorses Brady
The Illinois Education Association, one of the state’s two major teachers unions, announced endorsements for the state’s constitutional offices.
All the candidates getting the nod were Democrats, except one — state Rep. Dan Brady, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, who was chosen over Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the former state treasurer.
“We have always been proud to be a bipartisan organization that makes its decisions based on what is best for public education in Illinois,” said IEA president Kathi Griffin. “We believe this slate of candidates reflects those beliefs.”
The Illinois Federation of Teachers, on the other hand, endorsed Giannoulias early in his primary campaign and is supporting him in the general election.
Contact Brenden Moore at 217-421-7984. Follow him on Twitter: @brendenmoore13
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Region: Decatur,City: Decatur,Politics,Region: Central
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September 21, 2022 at 04:07PM