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State of Illinois

08/21/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 08/21/2019 14:46

Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Expanding Voting Rights, Rehabilitation in Illinois' Criminal Justice System

Chicago - Making critical reforms to improve the lives of justice-involved Illinoisans, Governor JB Pritzker signed a package of legislation today expanding voting rights, civic engagement and educational and rehabilitation programming in Illinois' criminal justice system.
'It's a new day in Illinois - one where we not only recognize the sanctity of the vote but commit to doing everything we can to invite everyone who is eligible to fully participate. In Illinois, we understand that every vote matters and every vote counts,' said Governor JB Pritzker. 'Illinois will continue to stand strong, even as our country takes a dangerous turn toward deeper disenfranchisement of minority communities. Especially as the Voting Rights Act remains gutted, especially as jurisdictions across the nation purge voter rolls and restrict registrations in college towns and communities of color, here in Illinois, we'll do our best to live up to the ideals of our democracy.'
'These policies are an example of what's possible when we come together in the name of restorative and transformative justice,' said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. 'I thank Governor Pritzker for signing these bills into law and working alongside the JEO to create a justice system that better reflects our values.'
Senate Bill 2090

Senate Bill 2090 expands voter access and education efforts in jails across the state. The new law takes the following steps to allow individuals to exercise their right to vote:

• Directs county jails and local election officials to establish a process that allows detainees awaiting trial to cast their ballots during elections
• Establishes a temporary polling place at the Cook County Department of Corrections
• Directs the Illinois Department of Corrections and county jails to provide a voter registration application and detailed information about their voting rights, including notification that their voting rights have been restored, to any person in custody eligible to vote for those being released
• Clarifies that for in-person voting, non-partisan poll watchers are limited to one per division within the jail, instead of one per precinct and requires in-person voting to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act

SB 2090 takes effect immediately.

'Every citizen who is eligible to vote must be provided with the opportunity to cast their ballot,' said Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago). 'Thousands of eligible voters who are detained before trial are systematically denied that right. Coupled with a justice system that disproportionately jails people of color, there is a clear effort to suppress the vote in communities of color across the country. This measure addresses that systematic voter suppression and shows that we value civic participation in Illinois.'
'I commend Governor Pritzker and our Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton for fighting for access to the ballot box,' said Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside). 'Today, we help guarantee the right to vote in Illinois for another underrepresented group. Through Senate Bill 2090, we help ensure that those being held in county jails - those not yet convicted of a crime - are given the opportunity to cast a ballot.'

House Bill 2541
House Bill 2541 promotes civic engagement in the criminal justice system by providing re-entering citizens with a non-partisan civics peer education program within 12 months of discharge from the Illinois Department of Corrections or Department of Juvenile Justice. This program will consist of three 90-minutes sessions of voting process, government and current affairs that is taught by incarcerated citizens who are specially trained by established non-partisan civic organizations.
HB 2541 takes effect on January 1, 2020.
'This is the first step toward building and expanding on the civic rights of folks in prisons and jails,' said Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago). 'The voices of the folks returning from incarceration are crucial in the fight for mass liberation and breaking the systemic cycle of mass incarceration, which is why it's important that we allow those voices to be heard.'
'Too many people believe that a criminal record prohibits them from voting and participating in our democracy,' said Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago). 'Making sure re-entering citizens have an understand of their rights as citizens and how they can exercise them will help reduce recidivism and build stronger communities. This is exactly what HB 2541 The Re-Entering Citizens Civic Education Act helps to do and I am happy to have sponsored legislation that is so important to my district and this state.'
'House Bill 2541 and Senate Bill 2090 reimagine democracy by unlocking civics for those who are incarcerated,' said Stevie Valles, Executive Director of Chicago Votes. 'This legislation opens up our political process to include more voices not less. Because democracy works better that way. There is more to strengthening democracy than simply ensuring the right to vote exists. These bills protect against the disenfranchisement of people who lack the knowledge they need to confidently participate, do not know that they have the right to participate, and face barriers to participation.'
House Bill 94
House Bill 94 incentives participation in education and rehabilitation programming in the Department of Corrections. Individuals with severe sentences entering DOC before June 19, 1998 - when truth in sentencing laws were enacted - are now eligible for sentencing credit for completing the following:

• 90 days of sentencing credit for completing 45 days or more of substance abuse treatment programming, correctional industry assignments, educational programming, behavior modification programming, sex offender treatment programming or life skills courses
• 180 days of sentencing credit for earning a bachelor's degree
• 180 days of sentencing credit for earning a master's or professional degree

HB 94 takes effect immediately.
'Our criminal justice system is in desperate need of reforms that reduce recidivism and promote rehabilitation,' said Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). 'This law will incentivize education and prepare inmates to re-enter society.'
'As Illinois pushes forward with criminal justice reform, it is critical that we remain respectful to victims while also reviewing and modifying our sentencing policies,' said Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago). 'HB 94 takes a fair and sensible approach in allowing rehabilitated individuals within the Illinois Department of Corrections that have long-term sentences to become eligible for sentence credits. HB 94 signifies the start of new era for Illinois as we collaboratively address sentencing reform and our over-crowded prison system.'