Calling Illinois’ criminal justice system “in need of some change,” State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Peru) organized a tour of the Cook County Jail with Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, fellow legislators, and people involved in the criminal justice system.
“The best way to really get a ‘feel’ for how overcrowded Illinois’ prisons really are, is to see it first hand,” Rezin said. “Getting input from prison wardens, correctional officers, community leaders, judges, and others in the criminal justice system about how to improve the system is how we should approach reform.”
Senator Rezin has toured the Cook County Jail several times. On April 2, she was joined by Senator Emil Jones (D-Chicago), Representative Robert Pritchard (R- Sycamore), Representative Camille Lilly (D-Chicago), Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove), Representative Terri Bryant (R-Mt. Vernon), Dr. Melvin Hinton (Chief of Mental Health Services with the Illinois Department of Corrections), Rodger Heaton (Illinois Public Safety Director), and Jessica McMiller Baptiste (Department of Juvenile Justice).
“Reforming the criminal justice system will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and make our prisons safer for both inmates and our correctional officers,” Rezin said. “All too often, our correctional officers are injured on the job because they are not only overworked, but have to monitor too many inmates at once. We must do something now, as our correctional officers put their lives on the line every day.”
Illinois has one of the most crowded prison systems in the country, and the state’s recidivism rate is dangerously high. The Department of Corrections is operating at 150 percent of capacity, while 48 percent of adult inmates and 54 percent of juvenile inmates are returned to the system within three years of release.
“The key to reforming our system and saving the taxpayers millions of dollars starts with helping people so they don’t return to prison again,” Rezin said. “Providing non-violent first time offenders, including our youth and young adult offenders more positive community programs before their sentencing, will help them get their life back on the right track while also benefiting taxpayers, our prison system, and society as a whole. We need to also take a serious look at incarceration time, early release, prison alternatives and community supervision.”
In February, Governor Bruce Rauner issued an Executive Order creating a new commission charged with identifying ways to reform the criminal justice system and sentencing laws in the state.