Chicago Voters Reach Consensus on Bias of Justice System

Our Justice System Can't Cope with Mental Illness

If you think the criminal justice system is biased and broken, you are right in tune with most voters in Illinois. According to a new poll from Southern Illinois University, 73 percent of state voters, both Democrats and Republicans, think the state spends too much money on incarceration and not enough on education and treatment.

In Illinois, more than 43,000 prisoners are incarcerated in prisons built for only 32,000, and nearly half of ex-prisoners return to prison within three years.

If you have been arrested for a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find, as a conviction will negatively impact your life and your livelihood.

The experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We offer a free consultation, so call our offices today for help, or contact us online.

What Can Be Done to Fix Our System?

Voters across party lines feel that something needs to be done to fix the broken system. Voters support continued criminal-justice reform and are more likely to favor candidates who support reform as well. Lawmakers should take the results of the survey seriously and look to correct biases and deficiencies in both the criminal justice system and efforts to rehabilitate and integrate ex-inmates into society.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the following are key priorities to immediately and safely improve Illinois’ criminal justice system.

Treat substance abuse and mental illness as a public health issue. Suggestions to accomplish this include:

  • Reduce sentences for drug offenses.
  • Legalize and regulate marijuana.
  • Decriminalize possession of small amounts of controlled substances.
  • Make simple possession of small amounts of drugs a misdemeanor.
  •  Decrease sentences for all drug offenses by one or more felony classes.

Focus on real rehabilitation instead of excessive sentences.

  • Repeal mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Modernize sentences for petty and property crimes by raising the threshold of $300 for a felony for property crime to $2,500.
  • End the use of prolonged solitary confinement.
  • Assess individual prisoners’ risks and needs and address the underlying causes of criminal behavior.
  • Provide adequate health care to prisoners.
  • Employ gender-responsive and trauma-informed practices.
  • Establish more programming inside institutions, including substance abuse and mental health treatment.
  • Provide educational opportunities, including higher education and job skills training.
  • Allow inmates to earn additional time off their sentences.
  •  Stop automatically elevating misdemeanors to felonies for a prior conviction.
  • Determine length of prison stay based on public safety risk.

Remove barriers to employment and education, since the most important way to get lives back on track is to find a good job.

  • Expand eligibility to expunge or seal criminal records. Expanding sealing for nonviolent offenders can lift the employment barrier of a criminal record.
  • Limit negligent-hiring liability so hiring someone with a record is not grounds for a lawsuit.
  • Enforce fair hiring practices.
  • “Ban the box” so that employers can consider job candidates’ qualifications without the stigma of knowing they have a criminal record, and extend this to higher education and housing.
  • Remove bans on people with certain convictions from obtaining employment or professional licenses.

Support community-based programs.

  • To provide mental health and substance abuse treatment on demand and treat this as a public health issue.
  • To provide insurance coverage.
  • To increase mental health crisis training for police, jail and prison employees.
  • Utilize harm reduction programs, including clean-needle and safe-injection sites.

Roll back excessive fines and fees.

  • Reduce money bail and mandatory fines, court fees and surcharges.
  • Change from a bail system to a risk-assessment system for deciding whether to release an accused defendant from custody before trial.
  • Reform civil asset forfeiture and vehicle impoundment laws.

Fight biases.

  • Collect data to quantify racial bias and disparities in order to guide policy and training of justice system personnel.
  • Revamp training of police, prosecutors, judges, correctional officers, probation and parole officers to address implicit and explicit bias.
  • Evaluate risk assessment tools used by courts, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), and Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to ensure that the tools are free of racial bias.

Contact Us for Help and Guidance

If you have been accused of a crime in Ilinois, the seasoned criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd  can help. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense.  We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process. We explain all elements and processes of the case and come up with an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.

Delaying can only make the situation worse. Put your trust in us, and contact us for help today for your free initial consultation if you have been accused of any criminal charges. Our Illinois criminal lawyers represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]