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The Illinois House just passed important sentencing reforms

Since the first passage of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, the question of what is actually effective has been asked time and again. At first, law and order policies seemed to make sense, but as harsh sentencing guidelines have been studied, they have been found to fall behind several other methods of addressing criminal activity, especially when it comes to recidivism. Over the past several years, governments in various states and the federal government have both worked to find a way to make sentencing more fair and effective.

Upcoming changes in Illinois?

On Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, the Illinois House has passed a criminal justice reform measure that could have a big impact on those accused of a variety of crimes. The bill, which passed 83-26 with overwhelming support and approval, details a few changes that will affect both those accused of crimes and the victims of criminal activity. A few of its highlights include:

  • Additional counseling and other services for victims, paid for with federal funds
  • More opportunities for prisoners to complete improvement programs to help shorten their sentences.
  • More discretion for judges to assign probation in drug cases

The bill was a bipartisan measure, introduced by Democratic State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth with the aim of reducing the prison population, which is the stated goal of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

If someone is charged with a drug crime

Under the changes to this law, judges in Illinois will be under less pressure to assign harsh criminal sentences and will be able to exercise their own discretion to apply probation to a broader range of cases. This means that those charged with crimes will find having the right criminal defense more important than ever, because the right defense attorneys will not only have the ability to provide aggressive defense in court, they will also have the skills to negotiate alternatives to jail time where appropriate.

Studies have shown overwhelming evidence that treatment is more effective than incarceration for those who suffer from addiction, and having alternatives to jail time gives judges the ability to help direct those who need treatment to the proper resources. When appropriate, a criminal defense attorney can facilitate this process.

The best defense

Until a person has consulted with a lawyer about a case, it will be difficult to know what the best options are, no matter what charges are faced. Experienced defense attorneys know how to build a working strategy, and they have the skills to give frank advice about a client's range of options. After being charged with a crime, people should contact an attorney right away.

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