Illinois Legislature Passes Major Public Safety Reforms, Spearheaded by Black Caucus, to Advance Equity & Make Communities Safer 

January 13, 2021
Contact: Julien Martinez, 347.229.2517, [email protected]

Illinois Legislature Passes Major Public Safety Reforms, Spearheaded by Black Caucus, to Advance Equity & Make Communities Safer
HB 3653 Prioritizes Rehabilitation to Reduce Recidivism, Improves Access to Recovery Services for Crime Victims, and Addresses Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice System 

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois General Assembly today passed long-awaited public safety reforms — made possible by the leadership of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus — securing a victory that makes communities left behind by the criminal justice system safer. Among the sweeping changes in House Bill 3653, the law includes reforms championed by the Alliance for Safety and Justice that prioritize proven approaches to rehabilitation, enacting more effective sentence credit policies that reduce recidivism and racial disparities. In addition, the approved legislation reduces barriers that crime victims face in accessing recovery services by removing eligibility restrictions for families and communities most impacted by crime and violence.

“With the passage of HB 3653, the Illinois state legislature has shown national leadership by advancing the state’s commitment to improving public safety and justice,” said Aswad Thomas, managing director of the Alliance for Safety and Justice’s flagship program, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “By continuing to shift away from failed over-incarceration policies, prioritizing rehabilitation that stops cycles of crime, and lifting unnecessary barriers to victim services, Illinois has taken a crucial step towards connecting communities in greatest need to safety. The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has advanced a commitment to achieving safer communities, and we especially want to thank Senator Elgie Sims and Deputy Majority Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth, as well as Attorney General Kwame Raoul.”

“Too many Illinois families have experienced the pain of losing a loved one or watched their communities suffer – I’ve felt that pain and loss myself. But today, Illinois is helping lead the way in addressing the root causes of violence and trauma,” said Bertha Purnell, coordinator of the Chicago chapter for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “For far too long, public safety policies have focused on over-incarceration, rather than prevention, rehabilitation, and victim services for communities most impacted by violence. Today, our elected officials affirmed that we must address trauma and rehabilitation to ensure healthier and safer lives for our children and families.”

HB 3653 improves the Illinois Department of Corrections’ (IDOC) sentence credit program that provides opportunities for people who are incarcerated to earn time off their sentences through good conduct and participation in rehabilitative programs — proven to reduce recidivism and break cycles of crime. For years, this system has been undermined by inconsistency in its administration. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Alliance for Safety and Justice designed changes to this system that will reduce rates of recidivism, racial disparities, and rising costs. HB 3653 included these changes that will:

  • Reduce racial disparities and increase the ability for Black applicants to earn credit by refining how IDOC uses risk assessments in determining program eligibility;

  • Increase the amount of time people can earn through rehabilitative programs;

  • Modernize Earned Program Credits, providing uniform access to the program across the IDOC system and expanding eligibility to earn credits;

  • Create a standard and fair process for IDOC to remove and restore sentence credits, including the implementation of behavioral incentives for people who have lost credits due to violations.

The approved legislation also takes several steps to expand access to victim services for survivors of crime in Illinois. Through the leadership of Illinois’ Attorney General, the Alliance for Safety and Justice helped design important changes to the state’s Crime Victim Compensation program. These reforms include:

  • Extending overall time limits to file victims compensation applications from 2 years to 5 years.

  • Expanded victim compensation program coverage to family members of crime survivors by recognizing non-traditional households and classifying children, spouses, and parents of victims to be victims in their own right.

  • Increased victim compensation caps for funeral expenses, loss of support, and loss of earnings.

  • Crime survivors currently on probation or parole will no longer be barred from eligibility for the victim compensation program.

  • Removes barriers for survivors in the victim compensation application and cooperation process before receiving services.

The full text of the bill can be viewed here.

About the Alliance for Safety and Justice

The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. It partners with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education and advocacy. It also brings together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence, as part of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – its national network of over 42,000 crime survivors. For more information, visit: