Legislation would allow prisoners to earn parole regardless of the crime


One of the architects behind the SAFE-T Act and cashless bail is now pushing legislation which would permit more prisoners in Illinois to become eligible for parole.  

State Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, announced House Bill 2045 that would allow a person serving a life sentence to become eligible for parole.  

“We believe it is going to increase public safety,” said Slaughter. “The efforts will indeed help citizens become more productive, positive citizens.”  

Slaughter is a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, the group of Illinois lawmakers responsible for the controversial criminal justice reform package SAFE-T Act. A lawsuit challenging the cashless bail portion of the package is currently being considered by the Illinois Supreme Court. 

State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, has introduced a similar bill in House Bill 3373 allowing prisoners serving a life sentence to earn parole, which she said is good policy.  

“It saves money, it looks at people based on their merit and what they have done while they were incarcerated, and it gives them an opportunity to have some hope,” said Ammons. 

But state Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said sometimes there are more important issues than saving money.  

“Absolutely we should be about saving money, but I don’t think dollars are more important than people’s lives,” Plummer told The Center Square. “I think that we have to make sure that we protect our communities.”

Plummer added that at the end of the day, the state has let far too many people who have committed heinous crimes out of prison without going through a thorough vetting process and the impact is being felt throughout Illinois communities. 

“Hopefully we can sit down with all parties and talk through really the dire impact these directions can have on innocent people around Illinois,” said Plummer. 

Meanwhile, Senate Republican members of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee issued a statement regarding the recent appointment of Donald Shelton as the Chair of the Prisoner Review Board, replacing Edith Crigler.

“Over the last several years, [Gov. J.B. Pritzker] has transformed the Prisoner Review Board to fit his weak-on-crime agenda and has allowed several of his appointees to go unvetted and unconfirmed for multiple years,” the group said in their statement Tuesday. “Fortunately, through persistent pressure by Senate Republicans, changes have started to take place following the bipartisan movement in the Senate to deny several controversial Pritzker appointees. While there is still a long way to go to reform this vital agency, we are encouraged by the recent change and will continue to advocate for a Prisoner Review Board that is just, transparent, puts the victims and their families first, and above all, protects Illinois families and communities.”

Shelton will make $103,000 a year as chairman. Other members of the Prisoner Review Board make more than $92,300 a year. Members may not hold any other form of paid employment per state statute. 

Greg Bishop contributed to this report


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March 23, 2023 at 07:16AM

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