Illinois Community-Level Programs Aim to Reduce Prison Population

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Very few people can picture themselves in the position of being charged with a felony and facing the possibility of spending time in a state prison. Thankfully, most of our 13 million Illinois residents will never be in that position.

Every year, 300,000 serious criminal offenses are committed in Illinois, including over 200,000 thefts/robberies/burglaries, 120,000 domestic violence offenses, and 80,000 drug crimes. Only a relatively small percentage of those criminal offenders end up in state prison, and that number has been declining due to specific efforts on the part of the state.

New Laws and Programs in Illinois

From 2013 to 2016, the Illinois prison population declined from nearly 49,000 to under 45,000. At the end of 2017, the inmate count was down even further, nearing the 41,000 mark. The state aims to cut these figures even further by reducing both the number of people sentenced to prison and the length of time each spends behind bars.

Much of the change is happening at the county court level. The most successful results have been seen in counties where only those offenders who have committed the most serious and violent crimes are held in pre-trial detention. Those accused of lower-level crimes are released pending trial. This change is supported by research showing that releasing people pre-trial reduces the likelihood of their going to prison post-trial. Keeping people out of pre-trial detention means they can keep earning an income, be with their families, work more effectively on their defense with their lawyers, and get counseling/treatment for problems that may have contributed to their offenses.

Another trend has been to make probation the default sentence for non-violent crimes , even for repeat offenders, giving people more chances before sending them to state prison. In one county, the mix of prison vs. probation sentences for felony crimes went from 42 percent prison, 58 percent probation in 2011 to 30 percent prison, 70 percent probation in 2016. A state program called Illinois Adult Redeploy even provides financial incentives for counties to keep offenders in the community rather than sending them to state prison.

The state legislature has contributed by passing a sentencing reform law that took effect Jan. 1, 2018. One of the reforms allows parole violators and minor offenders with sentences under one year to be jailed locally rather than going to state prison. Another repealed mandatory prison terms for some drug crimes. Yet another reform allows more prison inmates to earn time off their sentences when they participate in rehabilitation programs.

While your chances of going to state prison may be going down, do not expect to commit serious crimes in Illinois and get off scot-free. State authorities still have plenty of other penalties at their disposal, including time in county jail, fines, community service, monitored detention at home, taking away your driver’s license, asset forfeiture, and, last but perhaps most important, counseling and education programs. The ultimate goal, of course, is to reduce recidivism. And that is a picture we would all like to see.

Trust an Experienced Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor that could result in a prison sentence, you should contact a knowledgeable Will County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba will aggressively defend your rights and work hard to get you the best possible outcome. Contact us at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation; phone calls are answered 24 hours a day.